Electronic Etiquette

By | October 14, 2017

We have developed a large problem with etiquette in communication.  The cause has a lot to do with the speed at which our method of communication has changed from in-person, to mobile-device, to texting, blogs, social media and email.  More communication methods are developed and surface every day.

Following are general, and incomplete, guidelines the ease electronic communication in the masses.  It is my sincere hope that using them will increase the acceptance of your message while simultaneously lowering your frustration and the insults you receive.

When the communication media is electrically transmitted text, there are a few universal truths:

  1.  THIS IS YELLING AND IS VERY RUDE.
  2. Abbreviating words (aka AOL-speak) lowers everyone's ability to understand the message and lowers whatever impact the message was intended to convey.
  3. Emoticon (smileys and GIFs) usage should be minimized.  The reason is similar to the #2 above.  Additionally, meme and GIFs convey what other people want to say, not you.  Your point is lost and attention is given to someone(thing) else.
  4. Anything you send out, is no longer yours, and many times can be edited to look like you sent it.  Learn how to encrypt communications and keep permanent records, either through backing up your media or with paper (ugh).
  5. Many forms of electronic communication is meant to be a latent media.  If you don't receive an immediate response, then allow time to pass.  A telephone is an immediate form of communication, and intrusive. Text, email, social media and the like are latent.  They don't require an immediate response.  I just had a text answered from 5 months ago.  I don't even remember why I sent the original text asking a question.

Email specific:

  1. Forwarding email is always a bad idea.  If you don't edit out people's email address or place new one in the BCC: (blind carbon copy) you expose all the email addresses to harvesters which now have an efficient base to target spam (send unsolicited email).  Additionally, forwarded emails with no clear origin can contain mal-ware, viruses, etc. embedded in photos or other attachments. (This method was recently used to compromise the email servers of the Democratic National Convention and numerous other corporate entities.)
  2. Chose your email address wisely.  You won't always be 18, and giving away your birth-year in our address is a security concern.  In you email client, you can customize what is displayed in the recipients "From:" field.  This should be you name.  It lends integrity and value to your words.
  3. Excessive paragraphing will get you in trouble with your English teacher, but it makes reading the email easier.  Extremely long-running paragraphs make reading a challenge.
  4. Start a new paragraph with each new thought or topic.
  5. Attachments should be in a standards-based format: jpg, gif, pdf.  Not proprietary: .docx, .xlsx.  Proprietary formats assume that the recipient has that Microsoft Office. This is a $200-$400 assumption.
  6. If the attachment is meant to be edited by the recipient, then find out what program the recipient has and match it.  Older Microsoft Office formats like .doc and .xls are not the same as .docx and .xlsx.  If you have the new and they have the old, back converting on their part can destroy the formatting you have worked so hard on in your document.
  7. If you do not want the document to be edited, send it as a .pdf {portable document format, better (incorrectly) known as an Adobe Acrobat Document.}
  8. Large attachments should be shared on a cloud-based system temporarily.  Cloud-based systems include Dropbox, Microsoft Documents, Google Docs, and many, many more.  This takes the weight off of the email servers and allows collaborative editing of the document(s).
  9. Use BCC when sending to multiple recipients that don't know one another.  Protect their email address.  Using BCC hides everyone's email address from each other.
  10. Use a list server for clubs or groups.
  11. If you can't provide an in-dept and complete answer within a reasonable amount of time because work is required to respond, acknowledge receipt of the email and let the sender know you are working on the issue.

Text specific

  1. Snap-chat is a nice utility with great features.  One particular one is that the texts sent disappear after a short time.  This makes predators happy.  Use at your own risk.  While very useful, having a semi-permanent record of a communication is a good thing.  Especially if lawyers and law enforcement need to be involved.  (I live in a Snap-Chat free world.)
  2. Brevity is best.  Long messages should be executed through email unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Careful with sending photos and especially videos.  These use data. While many people have unlimited texts, not so many have unlimited data.  Share anything with a graphic in another method.
  4. DID I MENTION THIS IS YELLING?

Video Conferencing

  1. Be aware of your appearance, and the appearance of your surroundings.  While you may be able to get by in your PJs, a noisy background is distracting to others.
  2. Be aware of the ambient noise.
  3. Use of a headset minimizes background noise, and keeps the volume of your voice more stable.  I suggest a Bluetooth headset if possible.  A BT set gives you freedom to move during the conference.
  4. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking, and when you sneeze, cough, etc.  A dog barking or a cough can deafen everyone else on the conference.
  5. Identify yourself when you speak, unless you have only one person other than you, then likely, there is someone that doesn't know who you are.

Social Media

  1. Try not to be controversial (I fail on this).  If you must, then do it on your own page or chain and not on another person.  If you do it on your page, and someone goes off the chain, you can delete their salacious comments.
  2. Backup your comments or opinions with a short-link (see bitly.com) to the news story or resource.
  3. Always use a fact-checking utility like Snopes.com before you repost anything.
  4. Wikipedia is not a fact-checking utility.  Anyone can edit what is there, even you.
  5. Post on your own page and tag a person you would like to see it by using @.  This will give the option of posting it on his/her timeline.
  6. I just wish Facebook.com would stop turning on the auto-play of media (doesn't belong here, but it irritates the heck out of me.)
  7. It is impossible to get a full thought out in 140 characters or less.  Don't try it.

I hope we re-learn how to communicate and start respecting and honoring our audiences.  A debate doesn't not have to attack a person's private life.  Ideas and opinions can be honored while being discussed or disputed.  Refer to facts, not emotional pleas and check those facts before using them.

I invite comments and discussion.  I am sure that this is sorely incomplete.

Thanks for reading,

Jay C. "Jazzy J" Theriot
Jazzy_J on irc.freenode.net