Simple Geek’s Guide to Social Media Etiquette

Civilization is built on quicksand by beasts dreaming they are human beings, and the best way we avoid collectively drowning in the liquid dirt is by clinging to manners and social norms. But those norms change, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for no reason at all, and the rapid pace of technology has only caused them to change faster.

Social media and online communication haven’t fundamentally altered human behavior, but they have exacerbated aspects of it both positive and negative. New forms of interaction need new forms of etiquette, internet etiquette or “netiquette.” Here are a few tips for being a healthy social human being online, to stay out of the Internet Gutter and not go all Ingrid Goes West.

Treat People Like People

At the end of the day, we’re all people. The internet connects us like never before, but the physical distance and emotional filter of experiencing people as words and pictures on flat computer screens and tiny phones makes it easy for us to dehumanize folks online. The potential anonymity also helps us feel more comfortable acting less than human ourselves. But resist those rude (or worse) temptations. Follow the Golden Rule. Exercise patience and restraint. Don’t do or say anything to anyone online you wouldn’t also do in real life. A good tip is to type all the awful things you would say, for catharsis, and then delete them without sending.

Don’t Expect Instant Responses

Social media’s ability to let us know exactly when our messages are being seen and when responses are being typed is like a monkey’s paw wish come true. Sure it gives us more information about our communication with others, but the context we’re still lacking causes more paranoia. Are they ignoring me? Why? Do they hate me? Better send more messages like crazy stalker! Just take a deep breath and don’t expect others to instantly respond to every message you send, even if they’ve confirmed already seeing it.

Don’t Carelessly Tag People

Even though social media functions as a public forum, not everyone wants to be a part of everyone else’s conversations. So think twice before you tag every single person in a Facebook photo or barge into a Twitter tirade. And don’t mention people in threads where the other person purposefully didn’t add them to the conversation, usually to avoid dog piles of harassment. Nobody likes an egg snitch.

Remember What’s Private and What Isn’t

Harassment is a huge problem on social media. Just ask female video game developers three years ago. One of the ways victims deal with the toxic climate the platforms holders have shamefully failed to fix is by carefully managing what they say privately and publically. If you’re privy to someone else’s private information on social media, respect that privacy. Don’t go putting sensitive info out into the public where trolls and Nazis can feed on it. And you should apply that to your own private information as well. Just because social media oligarchs want us to turn our whole lives into public performative #brands doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to inner lives of our own.

No Non-Consensual Nudes!

See also, overly thirsty DM sliding and other sexual harassment. Just don’t do it dudes!

Online Is and Isn’t Real Life, So Know When to Log Off

The internet has real consequences, socially, emotionally, and sometimes even physically. So we have to behave responsibly online. However, it’s also important to occasionally get out of the tech bubble when we can, to log off and remember that Twitter isn’t the entire world even when it feels like it is in today’s political nightmare environment. Don’t get too worked up and mad and red online. And while you may meet some of your best friends (or worst enemies) through Snapchat and Instagram, primarily online friendships that are totally valid, try going outside and hanging out with folks in meatspace sometimes, too.