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NETIQUETTE

By Lavender June 19, 2009

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Mamas across the country once said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Turns out “saying it” and “typing it” are two very different things.

One look on the Star Tribune’s discussion boards online, and you’d think that the citizens of the Twin Cities are working the back rooms at the CIA and Guantanamo Bay. Not only are they utterly hate-filled, but also they suggest torture and death are acceptable punishments for almost anyone who’s committed a crime.

Would these same people be willing to say and do these things in a face-to-face conversation where their identity wasn’t hidden behind an anonymous ID?

Probably not, but that is the problem with online etiquette, or what better is known as netiquette. Like manners that regulate everyday life, rules govern online conversations.

It’s easy to be online; type out a hate-filled sentence, comment, or e-mail; and not think twice about it. Chances are you never will meet the recipient of those words, but they are more than just words. They will reach a real, living, breathing person. You may not like or care for the one on the other end of the computer, but he or she does have feelings, and can be hurt by awful words and comments.

If you are writing an e-mail to someone, and are upset or angry with this person, save the e-mail as a draft, and wait until you calm down. You may spare yourself future problems by waiting, and then rereading what you wrote. If your comment is directed at someone you don’t know, ask yourself if you’re willing to say it to his or her face. If you wouldn’t, you shouldn’t type it, either.

On another note, you may not know the person now, but one day, you may have to interact with him or her, and chances are, he or she may remember what you typed. Just because what you wrote was deleted on your end does not mean it was deleted on the other end. The White House quickly found that out recently. So, remember: Unlike conversations that can be forgotten, typed messages always can return to be used against you later.

Even with thought going into what you say to someone, a problem is that you actually aren’t saying it to that person, but typing it all out in words that have no inflection. Sarcasm and “fake” anger don’t come across as either, but rather as rude and hateful words. They clearly were not meant to be so on the sender’s end, but unless the recipient really knows the sender, he or she isn’t going to understand.

One way the online community has fixed this problem is to add “smiley” faces to the end of comments, indicating that they are to be taken lightheartedly, and not seriously.

Remember: What you mean needs to be clear and concise, or the person receiving the comments may not understand what you mean without an explanation—which brings up newbies, or people new to online conversing.

A 50-year-old person knows how to talk to other people, the rules of etiquette, and proper conversation. But he or she may not know the intricacies of netiquette. LOL, BRB, and l33t talk may be second nature to someone who has been online for years, but someone new is not going to understand all of it. It’s not that person’s fault, as he or she hasn’t been given time to learn it.

Be forgiving of these people. It’s not an indication of their intelligence, and they shouldn’t be treated as idiots. Take a few minutes either to type out the full message, or explain what all these new abbreviations stand for.

Better yet, use sentences and proper grammar. Not everyone is a whiz at computers, and can type out entire paragraphs with ease. Many use the “hunt and peck” method when typing, which is very slow and tedious.

Although typing class wasn’t always available in school, grammar was. There’s no excuse for horribly misspelled words or porrly constructed setences that require explanations. (If you reread that sentence, you understand why grammar and spelling matter.)

Things like LOL and BRB have become very common in online usage, but phone-texting abbreviations have not. It’s best not to use them unless you’re talking to someone who knows them as well. The millisecond it takes to type “girl” instead of “grl” isn’t really saving time, and just will come across as lazy.

So, unless YNWUTB, and understand UR2YS4ME or GGMSOT, it’s best to just type it all out. And remember: “If u dont hve ne-thng nice 2 type, dont type it @ all ;-)”

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