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Etiquette in Social Media

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By George Siemens October 23, 2010 - 10:01am Comments (5)

As part of Athabasca University's Learning Services Conference 2010, Terry Anderson and I presented on etiquette in social networks. A few notes and links from our session:

Etiquette is important in social spaces. Humanity has formed etiquette rules and guidelines in physical social spaces over the last several thousand years. Etiquette in online environments is still a bit ambiguous - rules can be a bit fuzzy and not well-understood by newcomers to the environment. Etiquette for email and discussion forums has been addressed by educators over the last decade. Social media, in contrast, is new and has limited rules and generally accepted behaviours.

The term "etiquette" is not really broad enough for social media. Identity and digital footprint are better terms. For example, when an individual decides to TYPE IN ALL CAPS in an email or forum, she/he mainly "harms" her/himself. In social media, actions of individuals have a broader effect: posting an image to Facebook can reveal information that others may not want to have made public. Checking someone "in" via Facebook Places similarly allows you to share information that others may not want to have shared. In social media, etiquette is increasingly about shaping and developing the digital footprint of others.

Privacy concerns: 

Here are a few examples of over sharing via social media and the potential these reveal, society does not yet have general consensus on what is (or is not) appropriate:

Personal Behaviour:

1. Declare yourself. Use your real name, image. Communicate openly, honestly. Decide which tools you want to use and be consistent: post, tweet, share - if you want to interact with a network, you need some consistency. 

2. Create: social media requires contribution, not only consumption. Create blog posts, Tweets, resources, videos, podcasts, etc.

3. Sharing and Amplifying: Share what you find valuable. Share resources that others have produced that you feel would benefit your network. However, over sharing and excessive personal information may blur boundaries (i.e. Goffman)

4. Review what you post. A quick spelling or grammar check can be helpful in capturing obvious errors. 

5. Listen, reflect, comment. Most people appreciate thoughtful commentary on their ideas or on what they post. Take time, in your social media activities, to engage with the ideas that others are sharing.

6. Understand privacy settings (and recognize prospect of failure): i.e. DM's in Twitter sometimes go public, confirm your Facebook settings, request permission to post images or video from others.

7. Building your network: don't "over friend" without contributing - i.e. followers to friends

8. Cultivate your friendships/networks/connections. Having a thousand friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter may seem impressive, but quality relationships take time and effort. Cultivate important connections.

9. Keep emotions in check: Emotional messages require time to process. Don't post/tweet when you're angry (see this: 

10. Ignore the idiots: This is key. When you participate in social media, you will get spammed, criticized, and even bullied or abused. Learn to ignore trolls...or at minimum, develop a bit of a thicker skin.

A few resources:


  • an unauthenticated user of the Landing October 30, 2011 - 2:19pm

    Thanks for putting this list together.  Great resource for some of us that are finding our way using social media.

    - Laura Bechard

  • an unauthenticated user of the Landing March 13, 2012 - 1:53am

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  • an unauthenticated user of the Landing May 25, 2012 - 6:38pm

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