The Legal, Ethical, and Societal Issues in Media and Information: Netiquette

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Netiquette or network etiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online. (Shea, 1997) Rules, that may not be strictly enforced or even regularly followed is important to keep everyone online in check. Virginia Shea published the following guidelines to cover the bases of netiquette.

Rule 1: Remember the Human

Through the technology, it is no longer necessary to be physically present to initiate interaction. As convenient as it is, it also creates a barrier between people that makes communication tricky. Even with emoticon and emojis, electronic devices still can’t quite convey messages the way face-to-face conversation does. Without facial expressions, the tone of voice, gestures, and body language, it is easy to forget that those at the receiving end of communication and actual human beings.

Putting oneself to others’ shoes can put everything in the right perspective. Remembering that the receiver on the other side of your computer or phone screen is another person is vital to avoiding hurting other people’s feelings. Empathy is one of the most powerful motivations for some basic decency online.


Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that one follows in real life

“When the cat goes away, the mouse comes out to play”, is perhaps the simplest anecdote explaining human nature’s approach in obeying the rules. In real life, actions have consequences, something one would be wise to remember cyberspace. Good netiquette is derived from the same standards set in real life. If your online behaviour doesn’t meet that, would be good to re-evaluate your actions.


Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace

The cyberspace may be as vast as the actual outer space. With the amount of information and the wide array of users online, divisions are bound to come up depending on domains. Acceptable behaviour varies on the domain you are on. If posting daily accounts of your life is acceptable on blogging domain, kit is improper on academic ones. Knowing where you are in cyberspace helps in practicing good netiquette.


Rule 4: Respect other people’s time and bandwidth

Between school and works, social life, chores, errands to run, and safeguarding one’s health, 24 hours no longer seem enough. It is important to ensure that one is not wasting it by delivering nonsense or unsolicited information.

Bandwidth is the information-carrying capacity of the wires and channels that connect everyone in cyberspace. There’s a limit to the amount of data that any piece of wiring can carry at any given moment—even a state-of-the-art fiber-optic cable. (Shea, 1997) This is why spamming, other than being frowned upon is bad netiquette.


Rule 5: Make oneself look good online

People, in general, have a natural desire to be linked. Even on social media platforms, getting several likes on posts, or hearts on photos, can definitely make anyone’s day. Making oneself look good online means appearing as a decent, smart, and well-rounded individual, through what one writes. Look good, by being a responsible contributor in the age of media information.


Rule 6: Share expert knowledge

Both the great and terrible beauty of new media lies in its information crowd sourcing. Anyone with access to the internet can share data and information to the world. While this raises credibility issues among many data found online, it also increases the number of accurate facts contributed by experts.

Experts contributing valuable information, and making them available to many, is indeed a positive effect of the media and information age.


Rule 7: Help keeps flame wars under control

“Flaming” is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotions. (Shea, 1997) One good example would be sharing strong political views through social media platforms. Since not everyone shares the same beliefs and supports the same parties, the conflict between differing groups arises. This is called the flame wars. Keep in mind that having the right to speech and expression does not give anyone the right to crucify others with a different view. Opinions are always allowed to be voiced online but at the end of the day, everyone just has to agree to disagree.


Rule 8: Respect other people’s privacy

People dependence on social media has put everyone’s lives under a microscope. Even so, privacy still remains a right that needs to be asserted. Personal emails should be treated as regular mails, only to be read by whom it was addressed to. No one should access social media profiles of others without their consent. Let anyone choose what information to share and who to share them with online. Respecting other people’s privacy is not just good netiquette, it is everyone’s responsibility.


Rule 9: Don’t abuse one’s own power

The cyberspace requires experts to be further developed and constantly maintained. These experts have more power than any regular consumer. Bottom line is if one has been given some authority over online networks he or she must not use it out of the context of one’s own job. Power, even if it is as small as being entrusted with a Facebook password, must not be abused.


Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes

There have been no truer words spoken than the words “No one is perfect.” It is true that people make mistakes, even online. So be forgiving of other people’s mistakes. Forgiving other people for their mistakes isn’t just good netiquette, it is also basic good manners.