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Monica Irvine
President, The Etiquette Factory

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Social Networking Etiquette

Wow. Social networking sites are becoming more popular everyday and providing us with 24-hour communication. As with any type of new communication, it takes a little time to adjust to the new format, and it takes time for etiquette faux pas to show their ugly face in such communication. Let’s address what we have recognized so far as common etiquette mistakes that are made on social networking sites. The purpose of discussing these issues is not to condemn anyone, but merely to help protect you, your reputation and your future. Here are a few etiquette rules to consider when visiting social networking sites:

It’s impolite to have a “me, me, me” approach to life, whether in the real world or the world of social networking. If all you ever post is information regarding yourself, then maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your purpose in being on the site. Social networking sites are about relationships. Relationships are best when individuals communicate with one another, usually with the focus on the other person (if you’re polite). Consider this as you decide what to post.

Never post private or inappropriate conversation. We have to consider who our audience is before we ever post anything, especially to a “wall.” We have to assume that the whole world is going to read it, including our moms, our teachers, our future bosses, or our future spouse. Then, with that knowledge, we must decide whether we still want to post it?

Never post unflattering images of friends or anyone, for that matter, without their consent. This is a real fast way to destroy a friendship. You must ask yourself, “Would I want people posting pictures of me without my permission?” The answer for all of us is of course, no.

Never spread gossip or unkind things via the web. This is so wrong on so many levels. Never, never spread unkind remarks about someone via the web. Whether we like to admit it or not, there really are two sides to every story, so first of all, it’s really unfair to post just one side of a story. Second, as ambassadors of proper etiquette with the determination to never say or do anything that would embarrass, hurt or cause discomfort to another, we simply do not criticize, make fun of, or speak negatively about others, and we surely don’t make a public record of such. This will come back to haunt you if you participate in this type of behavior. I can assure you of this.

Never use foul language, racial slurs or other offensive language on social networking sites. Why? Because you never really know who your audience is or will be. Today, many employers are looking at social networking sites to find out more private information regarding prospective employees. These types of behaviors could literally cost you a job. Another warning is to not make reference to alcohol or drugs for the same reasons. Be careful. These postings could haunt you for years to come.

Don’t abuse your friendships. What I mean by this, is don’t send your friends too many requests to join this cause or support this group, etc. If you’re not careful, you could lose friends if the only thing you sent was information regarding yourself.

Don’t blur the lines between work time and personal time. It is not polite to try to communicate about work past normally accepted business hours, usually 9-5. Unless the company or boss that you work for has established an “anything goes” work hour day, then keep your contact with employers and fellow employees to the hours between 9 and 5.

Well, that about does it. As these sites become even more popular, I’m sure poor social networking etiquette will become more apparent. I think that if you try to avoid the above-mentioned etiquette faux pas regarding social networks, then you will be just fine. Please be careful on the web. You can’t take back what has been engraved into the book of the web.

Very best,
Monica Irvine
CEO/The Etiquette Factory

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