What is Netiquette and Why Does It Matter?
Various books, studies, and blogs have explored the concept of “netiquette,” defined as a set of etiquette guidelines for navigating the world of digital communication. But everything changed this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit at a level of global proportions. National and local governments across the world moved quickly from encouraging better hygiene practices to enforcing social distance and shelter-in-place measures.
But how does social distancing, a practice meant to reduce infection and viral spread, affect our ability to create meaningful personal connections? Without the opportunity to create personal connections in person, remote communication is now our only means of interaction as we remain in isolation for an indefinite amount of time. A new emphasis is placed on netiquette as technological communication replaces the experience of person-to-person conversations.
As a result, we must be aware that our understanding of netiquette is changing as the world changes during a pandemic. Now that virtually all communication is, well, virtual, how do we ensure clarity and meaning in our modes of communication? How do we maintain valuable personal and professional relationships as we wait for the crisis to clear? At VP Legacies, we prioritize the value of personal connection and share innovative ways to improve those connections in the digital era. In today’s post, we share with you our tips for etiquette for remote communication in 2020.
Email or Phone Call
Let’s start at square one. If you’re about to reach out to an old friend, you may be wondering whether you should start with an email or phone call. If the friend lives in a different time zone or country, it may be best to open up communications with an email so that you don’t wake them up at an ungodly hour.
An email allows your friend or relative to read the correspondence at their leisure and gets some time to write back a thoughtful reply. You can include a suggestion to talk on the phone soon and ask when would be a good time for them to talk. Doing so allows you to find a time that works for both of you to have a relaxed and pleasant conversation.
When it comes to professional communication, be aware of the culture of your office or company and respond to emails and phone calls as you have done in the past. The general rule is to respond with the same mode of communication that another has reached out to you with. For example, if a colleague emails you, email them back. If a business contact leaves you a voicemail, do them the honor of a return call.
Here are some general guidelines for using phone and email:
- Discern between personal and professional communication. Maintain a professional tone for work calls and emails and adopt a friendly tone for personal calls and emails.
- Avoid emailing spam to both friends and work colleagues. Defined as
“irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients,” spam emails are impersonal and usually unwelcome. Instead of sending spam, take the time to compose personal emails to one or a few recipients (such as a group of friends) at a time.
- Speak at normal volume when talking over the phone. Avoid the urge to shout into the phone.
- Never send emails in all caps, whether in a friendly or professional capacity.
- Avoid using sarcastic comments in all emails to avoid misunderstandings. If they can’t hear your tone, they may not understand what you mean.
It’s perfectly human to feel unsure about reaching out to certain people, whether they be loved ones, long lost friends, or professional contacts. The current situation is confusing for many and communication can easily become muddled in the fray of a pandemic. Check out VP Legacies’ course, How To Personally Connect In The Midst of a Global Pandemic, to gain some footing and maintain meaningful connection during this time.
Video Chat Etiquette
You’ve made it to the next level of remote communication and ready for some new technology. Are you ready to video chat? Here’s some pointers to get you started.
First, schedule a time and date when setting up a video chat with loved ones or colleagues. Then decide which application you’ll be using. It may be Facetime on the iPhone or Duo for Android. Or you can use Zoom, Skype, or Bluejeans on your computer. For those still exploring options, Bluejeans is a video conferencing app much like Zoom and Skype. Whichever you choose, inform anyone joining the video call of what application you’ll be using and send them a reminder when it’s almost time for your chat.
If you’re joining a video meeting for work, set up a space in your home office or any clean space in your house that won’t distract others from the meeting. Prepare ahead of time by downloading the proper application for the remote video conference and testing it out with a friend or relative to make sure your audio and visual settings are in order. Because you won’t be able to pass around any paperwork during the remote call, be sure to send anything you want meeting attendees to view ahead of time so they have time to take a look before the video call. Have any visuals you want to present ready in both physical and digital formats. And of course, be sure to change out of those pajamas first!
Video chatting a friend is much more informal and you’ll feel immensely more connected just being able to see them smiling back at you. Just be considerate of anything that might make your friends or loved ones uncomfortable. If you’re involved in an activity that might cause others embarrassment or discomfort, it’s best to wait until you’ve completed the task to join a group video chat. Your best (and not too revealing) pajamas will likely be perfectly acceptable for a friendly video call.
Social Media Etiquette
Social media etiquette is complicated territory. Keep in mind that you may encounter those who do not heed etiquette for remote communication in this outlet. Because of this, use discretion when it comes to social media communication. Depending on the culture of your workplace, you may want to keep social media where it belongs: in your social life rather than professional life. Despite any challenges you may encounter though, social media can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family.
The messaging functions on Facebook and Instagram function in much the same way as email. If you’re trying to reach a friend who is active on a certain platform, messaging them through that app may be more effective than emailing them. It’s also an easy way to share media and photos, though again, be conscious of anything that would make your friends uncomfortable. In the event you’re venturing into new and unfamiliar modes of social media, such as Tiktok or Snapchat, don’t hesitate to ask a friend or relative to guide you through the process, or find a tutorial online to get started.
The three cardinal rules of social media are:
- Respect privacy by not sharing personal photos or media of loved ones unless they have given you permission to do so.
- Be yourself even if you’re still learning the ropes on social media.
- Do not bully, stalk, or harass others and don’t say to anyone anything you wouldn’t say in person.
Work and Classroom Etiquette
In addition to those participating in online work meetings, remote brainstorm sessions, and video interviews, there are also students of all ages learning how remote etiquette is being handled in the digital classroom. Adults signing onto Zoom for work training, taking eLearning soft skill classes, or even recreational courses can learn from the following guidelines:
- If someone is speaking, and you’d like to participate, raise your hand as you would in the classroom. Some virtual classroom apps also have a “raise hand” button you can press to alert the administrator that you have a question or problem.
- Many apps feature a chat window where you can interact with classmates. Be respectful of that privilege and resist the temptation to fill the chat with links, images or topics that are off subject or distracting to the instructor and students.
- Share feedback with your instructor if something about the class isn’t working for you, whether technical or otherwise. As we are all learning from this experience, constructive feedback is necessary to improve the process and streamline the learning curve.
- Be kind to instructors or whoever is speaking, especially ones that are just learning how to use digital tools for education. It’s not easy to teach a roomful of people and perhaps it’s even harder to teach to an empty room, so be mindful of your instructor’s or administrator’s feelings and genuine efforts.
You’re Ready To Connect!
We hope this post provides for you more opportunities to maintain the relationships you hold dear during a difficult and isolated time. Etiquette, whether in person or online, is an expression of courtesy and respect for your colleagues, relatives, and friends and they will be sure to appreciate your efforts. With the help of technology and a little practice, you’ll be switching between apps and devices like a pro and connecting with loved ones from all over the world.
As many are realizing during this pandemic lockdown, it’s more important than ever to nurture our personal and professional relationships. With the right tools, those valuable connections can continue to grow and flourish. Start with VP Legacies’ course, Personal Connections 101, to join a warm community of others just like you and learn to foster the friendships you already have, even from many miles away.