As much as the internet is an artificial space, you cannot disregard the fact that you’re communicating with humans online, even if you cannot see them in front of your eyes. There are many rules of etiquette that have been established about using the correct behaviour online, and should you not respect them, be prepared for the aftermath that can linger for years to come with your own personal digital presence.

Students are quick to become frustrated or treat others poorly in cyberspace, but there are repercussions for any unethical behaviour. Here are some of the most important digital rules and best practices for students to consider when operating and communicating with others online:

  • Respect people for the humans they are

When speaking to people via social media platforms or even email, netiquette is essential. It’s easy to forget the human element in conversations. If you’re not sure of what good email etiquette is, do some research. Always think about the way you speak to others and if someone were to speak to you in that way, would you be happy with it? Beyond the scam artists and trollers, individuals present their human selves online through their usernames and profile pictures. Always consider these ‘people’ and respect them for who they are in the world, even if you don’t know them personally. Just because you’re hiding behind a screen, you should always remember to speak and say the same things that you would if you were communicating with them face-to-face. Any digital interaction can be traced back to you.

  • Communicate with people in an ethical manner

Each country has their own laws and means of operating. Operating online means that you respect any legal issues, such as pirating of movies, and know that breaking the law could land you in a challenging situation. Just because it’s “online” you cannot take chances on activities you wouldn’t do in a real-life situation. Digital businesses are also “real” businesses which are trying to make a difference and grow their bottom line. While you might cut them off due to the viruses their advertisements could bring, before you make an impulse action, consider the type of digital customer you want to be.  

  • Act according to the website you’re on

Each digital platform has its own set of rules which require a certain type of behaviour. For example, what is acceptable on Facebook is not necessarily acceptable on LinkedIn. Once you access a particular forum, for example, a job posting website, make sure you observe the type of behaviour and conversation that is taking place before you contribute to something that might affect your digital reputation.

  • Respect other people's time on the internet

The digital space opens up a whole new world of access to people and businesses. It’s important to always note that the time spent on the internet needs to be limited. No matter who you are speaking to, you need to respect their time and space, without wasting their time online. Again, the type of platform you’re using will affect this, for example, Facebook is ideal for personal contacting and communication, whereas you cannot simply direct message people on LinkedIn for the sake of it. These are platforms for professional individuals who are looking to network about work or find a new job. You can save people’s time by being considerate in what you send and share online. And make sure that whatever you do choose to share is appropriate and respectful to different cultures and genders.

  • Make yourself look good online

While the digital space offers many opportunities to get in touch with people, you should always try to be on your best behaviour. Included in that is your online reputation. Always put your best foot forward and present yourself in such a way that you would like to be remembered or identified as. If you’re finishing college and are looking to apply for a job online, clean up your social media pages and show yourself as the professional that you are. Most interviewers search their applicants online to learn more about them on a personal level, so be sure to showcase the best possible version for yourself to be considered for an interview. Regardless of who you speak to, try to be as grammatically correct as you can and avoid swearing online, especially in emails. If you are puzzled by such professionalism, Google “what is email etiquette?” to learn about the different types of approaches and adjust your emails accordingly. In between everything, try to be positive, in an already negative world, by contributing to positive behaviour and healthy discussions.

  • Keep digital disagreements PG 13
Lastly, it’s very easy to disagree with someone online. Some people let it slide while others “have” to get involved. If you are one of those people, contribute in a civilised manner. Always remember that what you say online cannot be taken back, so be respectful in your responses and if you are going to be negative with your feedback or replies, make sure it’s constructive, useful and within reason.