Online Communication Etiquette

Although it has been millions of years since the humankind started communicating face-to-face, we still see many fall behind in this real life course. To make things worse, we now are introduced to a new kind of communication that we have never learned how to deal with in school or at home; the online communication etiquette.

Our parents taught us to say “thank you” and “excuse me.” These are complete, powerful, nice, and kind statements that mean a lot and serve a purpose. In school, we developed even better communication skills. We learned how to talk to strangers, how to acknowledge others and how to engage in a discussion with more than two persons.

My real world communication skills are very good. I know when to listen and when to speak. I know when and how to initiate a conversation and when the other party doesn’t want to engage in the conversation. I know when my students are nodding their heads as a result of agreeing with me or comprehending the material, and when they are nodding to fool me that they are following but in reality they are not. I know when to shake hand and when not.

On the other hand, my skills and etiquette in the online communication are very bad. Neither my parents nor my school taught me what to say or do when a stranger send me a Facebook friend request, or when someone doesn’t answer my Facebook friend request. Or someone doesn’t follow me back on twitter. No one informs you that they stopped following you on twitter, out of a sudden. All these behaviors are considered very rude in the real world. Imagine speaking to someone in front of you and he/she doesn’t answer you or even acknowledge your question.

When I joined Twitter I followed people but many of them didn’t follow back. Being new to twitter I unfollowed them, thinking it is rude not to follow back. Later, I decided it was naïve to do such thing. And since I wanted to hear news about Jordan I had a following mania. I followed more than 300 most of them tweet from Jordan. In the beginning, it was fun to be on top of what is happening in Jordan. It was great to be able to follow the news about #March24 Protest Camp in Amman . But then months later, more than 150 of those who I followed didn’t follow me back. So, I decided to unfollow.

As I said, I lack the etiquette of online communication. I just followed and unfollowed people twice in less than a year. Of course I didn’t inform them because they were not following me in the first place. I am not saying that everyone you follow should follow you back. It is, in some case, unreasonable and it is their choice to follow you or not. But not following back could be interpreted for different reasons. And since we lack the online communication etiquette we will never know why someone is not following back. It could be one or more of the followings:

  • It could be a polite message to the follower that you can follow me but I wish you don’t
  • They have thousands of followers and hence they can’t follow back everyone
  • You are not adding much to their online presence. I think I fall in this category since I only tweet my new posts. Twitter still not my thing
  • You tweet too much, or your tweets are useless, or any other reason that they don’t feel they should follow you back
  • Some individuals think it is prestigious if the number of their followers is more than the number of people they follow
  • and whatever other reasons

I found I have a problem with my online communication etiquette when I started using Twitter and when I started receiving comments and subscriptions to my blog. I never for example thanked any of my blog subscribers. I even didn’t acknowledge their subscriptions which now while I am writing this feel it is very rude and unprofessional. I wasn’t sure if I should do that or not. I think it would be a nice gesture but I never did it. I wasn’t taught what to do and what not in such case. It is totally a new realm for me. No one knows if we should acknowledge every comment to our blog or not. I know some Jordanian bloggers like Rand and Whisper do it. For some other bloggers like the Black-Iris it could be almost impossible with thousands of readers per post.  I many times feel I have nothing to add to the comment on my blog but maybe a thank you would be enough. But again, it is a new communication skill that I need to learn about.

Facebook communication etiquette is much easier to learn than Twitter. When I send a friend request I always send an email with it. Informing the person that they should not feel obliged to accept my request. Some people reply back when they don’t feel comfortable accepting this request others ignore to reply back.

We all know to be successful we need to have a good communication skill. There are thousands of publications, courses and events about learning, developing and acquiring these skills. Unfortunately, most of these, if not all, publications are limited to the real world communication. Maybe it is time for the people in the social networking to start addressing these issues and start an online communication etiquette course. I am sure some on top of this business people already started addressing this issue but I think it is still undeveloped and in its early stage. 

For everyone who reads and comments on this blog I would like to say thank you. And a special “THANK YOU!” to those who I have never thanked or acknowledge before, my dear subscribers. I know it is late but I am learning a new skill, the online communication etiquette. Without these comments and subscriptions I would never know if someone out there is reading my posts or not.

8 thoughts on “Online Communication Etiquette

  1. Good observation. Someone now needs to write a book about online Communication etiquette. I guess you’d fit in if u just did not give it much thought.. You just need to be you, u don’t have to follow back if u are not interested and people will not follow u unless u show them that u are an interesting person. No one in real life will come and talk to u just bc of whatever, u need to show ppl that u are worth being noticed.

    On a side note, I do not consider being rude a bad thing. It is necessary sometimes.

    You said before that you never chatted with someone and u prefer face to face chatting. Now since u wrote this post, you’re considering online communication part of your life and u want to learn how to behave… I don’t know how will that happen but I am definitely not gonna try to help since I am a teenager- that’s when I could easily figure where u fail at.

    1. I am sure I am not a good fit to write such book🙂
      I agree with you that one needs to show others that he/she is worth following if he/she is going to be on twitter. But, I have to disagree with you about no one will come and talk to you without knowing you. Many people do it when they are alone. I have been approached by many individuals and we started a conversation. It is easier for an individual to approach another person when that person is alone.
      Yes, it is true I never chatted online. Maybe that is why I am still not much into twitter and don’t know much about its protocol🙂

  2. Nooooo, no online etiquette handbook! Part of the fun of online communication is the lack of social protocol-just try to not to take it personally.

    I have a twitter but I only follow I never actually tweet. I don’t mind because I know I wouldn’t be worth following on twitter so why put it out there to begin with.

    I’m a blog reader/follower. I will admit though when I know a blogger is likely to address and/or respond to what I have to say I’m a lot more likely to leave my 2 cents in the comments box over another blogger’s blog.

    1. So, I hope you always leave your 2 cents on my future posts🙂 We bloggers like when we receive comments.
      I think what you mentioned is very true. That is, not to take things personally. I guess this should be the case not just in the online communication. But it is virtue we need to learn and keep in mind all the time.
      So, you like the lack of social protocol in online communication. This might make things easier and simpler. Nevertheless, I still think that establishing some knowledge about this protocol might be helpful for complicated people like myself🙂

  3. I think even though we don’t deal with each other face to face here ,we apply a lot of our normal daily etiquette,it’s a part of our personality we just apply it without thinking about it, being rude here mains that we have a rude part in our personality even if we tried not to show it in real life… we will face a certain situation and all will come out.

    For me I find it a must to replay every and each comment in my blog and I don’t like when I add my comment in a blog and no one reply, it’s like talking to your self and it’s not nice🙂

    I even some times like the conservations happened between me and my commentators more than the main post because most of the time it open new subjects related to the post but not mentioned there.

    Thanks for mentioning me in ur post😀 and u r most welcome,I comment and I’m also a follower😛

    Unfortunately it’s been a long time since I thank my blog’s followers…. I’ll dedicate a post for them soon inshallah, thanks for reminding me🙂

    Congratulations for the new theme …it’s very neat 😀

    1. For someone like and and Rand who usually receive many comments I envy you that you can reply to all comments. But I learned from you that one should reply to all comments. So, I am starting doing it.
      I am glad you liked the new theme. I am proud of my header picture as well because I shot it🙂 I also added some of my pictures to Flickr. I added too many I finished my quota for this month😦

  4. It is interesting to compare how our communication habits shift with online social media, but I have to say that you are drastically over thinking the whole process. The main etiquette is not to expect a response and not to take anything personally. The same standards do not apply (this is referring to etiquette, words still mean the same thing, if the content is hurtful then the same basic rules apply to actual life.) It is understood that when you send a friend request on facebook they have the option to accept or deny and to add a message, unless it is to remind them of how you know each other, will seem excessive. Part of why people like social media is that they can jump in where they want and out when they want. When we are face to face we are dealing with one person and one comment at a time, maybe two or three, but online everyone is interacting with hundreds of others, and thousands of comments are being thrown out, so it would bog communication down to treat it like a normal face to face interchange. The best way to ensure that people enjoy you online is to not be hurt or take it personally if someone takes a while to respond. People do not want that pressure, if you do not expect a response then they will not mind you posting or friending them and when they feel like it they will respond. Now blog posts are a little different because you are trying to build an audience, and you want to reward them for engaging with you, and you are trying to pull in people who want the experience your blog provides. Unless you have too many to respond to I would recommend replying. It is not a matter of etiquette, but rather a matter of pulling them in. And now I must admit that I accused you of over thinking this and then proceeded to write a 300 word paragraph, so I am also guilty.

    1. WildMan…Welcome and thanks for sharing your opinion about the subject. I guess you have a valid point regarding that people using online social networks don’t want the pressure they endure in the real social life. As I mentioned in the post “my skills and etiquette in the online communication are very bad” so my new learning skill in this new type of communication is still in progress.
      Nevertheless, I still think we need to behave online the same way we behave in real life but this my opinion and I could be wrong.

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