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5 Essential Social Media Etiquette Rules
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Social media has become a nearly indispensable part of our lives (we’re all guilty of checking Instagram a little too often). It allows us to interact with other people from afar, greatly extending our reach. However, people often take advantage of the distance and relative anonymity of the Internet to behave in unpleasant ways.

Despite being virtual, the social media sphere is still a public space with real people behind the screens. Your behaviour on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms can affect your real life.

Here are some general rules of social media etiquette that we should all follow to create a more conducive digital community.

1. Fact-check before sharing

Now that the popularity of content is being measured by the number of likes and shares, people are going all out to get you to click on a link – hence the term ‘clickbait’.

Headlines are getting more dramatic (‘You’ll Never Believe What She Did!’) and the content itself can often be angled in the most sensationalist way possible just to invite people to share the article.

Don’t share blindly. Check your facts against multiple sources, read the comment sections to see if anyone has shared better insight and use your judgment. Think about why you want to share the article or image as well.

Sharing something that has been fact-checked for educational purposes is fine. Sharing something just to stir up hate is not cool, especially if it results in mob justice.

2. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything

We’ve all seen rude, hateful comments on posts and articles online. Let’s be real: those don’t add anything to the discussion in the slightest. What’s worse is some people enjoy being as insulting as possible (also called ‘trolling’) just to provoke a reaction from the victim, which further fuels the fire.

As Thumper’s mother taught him, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. You can make your points respectfully and constructively instead of pouring unnecessary hate and scorn onto others, especially when there are so many sensitive issues that could trigger conflict.

This applies even if you’re the victim; keep your cool and if you must respond, reply calmly. Most trolls stop fairly quickly once they realise they aren’t getting the dramatic response they want.

3. Avoid posting anything too personal

Social media is basically your personal broadcasting channel and it can be tempting to share everything. However, be aware that what goes online, stays online – and you never know who’s watching. It’s more and more common now for employers to do a Facebook search for their prospective new hire.

Think before you post: would you be comfortable with your employer seeing the picture or reading the status you just posted? If the answer is no, that’s a good signal that you shouldn’t be posting it. That goes double if other parties are involved; for instance, posting arguments involving your children.

Tip: avoid social media when you’re feeling emotional. You might post something that you’ll regret later.

4. Ask before you post or tag

We all like to share our photos online to document good memories. However, not everyone wants their activities or locations shared with the world, especially since the Internet never forgets. Also, you might choose to upload a picture where you look good, but your friend might not look their best in it!

If you’re not alone in your photo or video, it’s always good practice to ask everyone’s permission before sharing it online – don’t just assume they’re fine with it. People may not want to be in your photos or videos if they know that it’s likely to go public without their consent.

5. Friend or unfriend responsibly

It’s a question many social media users struggle with. Should you add your boss, colleagues or other acquaintances on Facebook?

There’s no right or wrong in this; if you politely explain that you prefer to keep your work and private life separate and offer to add them on professional networks such as LinkedIn, most people will understand. But if you don’t mind sharing your goings-on with your coworkers, that’s fine too. Just be aware of what you’re showing them.

Unfriending someone is also less of a taboo than it used to be. There’s nothing wrong with unfriending people that you no longer wish to keep in touch with or aren’t that close to. However, if you feel like that may spark awkward conversations, you can filter who you show what content to on your friend list – it just takes a bit more effort.

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