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Mind Your Internet Manners | Mukta Chaitanya

Mind Your Internet Manners(Netiquette)


Virtual etiquette is essentially how you behave online.


Technology disruption has created a new world involving a virtual work environment, which has changed how people communicate, react and connect.

It’s time for us to realise, rebuild and reinvent workplaces and better communication strategies to survive in this new normal of ‘online work spaces’. For that, we first need to understand why better communication is needed. When we send an email or a WhatsApp message, it’s written communication with no personal connection involved, like expressions, body language handwriting, etc. This communication can be interpreted differently by different people. While emoticons do help, they are artificially created expressions and can often be misinterpreted as well.

Once we share something online it will remain online forever. Even if we delete something from our profile, our digital footprints are permanently imprinted in the digital space.

Internet or online etiquette has emerged to facilitate online interactions in the absence of visual and auditory cues. These can often be sources of misunderstanding, as readers can easily misinterpret messages, which can end up in rather disastrous situations. That is why we must learn and use online etiquette. It is as important as offline etiquette, and the blend of both is essential in this hybrid work-life setting post the pandemic. This brings us to netiquette.

What is Netiquette?

Netiquette is a set of rules that encourages appropriate online behaviour related to the social and cultural norms of a community. These rules can vary depending on the environment/context (informal/formal), people (familiar/unfamiliar with each other), activity, and type of technology used. Non-compliance with netiquette can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect.

Here are some of the most basic netiquette that people must follow.

  1. Real people are the priority

People often use their smartphones unwisely, especially during a meeting. They chat, forward, and share non-official messages constantly without realising that their actions may be disturbing others.

This can be quite irritating for the people around them. So Netiquette no. 1 is to not be engrossed in your mobile phone during a meeting. Checking your phone in such a setting is a bad habit and leaves a poor impression.

This can offend or seem disrespectful to the people around you. Make an effort to stay away from your mobile and be more attentive.

  1. Use respectful language

As mentioned above, we live in a hybrid work culture. Generally, during a face-to-face conversation, people are respectful towards each other. But in the virtual world, we feel more free and safe. Sitting behind a screen, one has a sense of safety, where even if they say something controversial, they can get away with it since it is a virtual space.

As a result, one becomes casual and feels free to be abusive, disrespectful, casual and even bully others. Name-calling, cursing, and deliberately using offensive language while opinionating are popular types of bullying. This kind of abuse not only destroys your reputation but in a few cases is also considered a cyber-crime.

Even if you have a sarcastic nature, be very cautious online. Receivers or the audience just read what is written and will not know your tone or facial expressions. Respect opinions and perspectives that are different from yours.

  1. NO means NO

Avoid sending text messages after work hours. Jokes with sexual innuendos are just not acceptable. Learn to respect others’ personal and cyberspace. Stalking, late-night video calls, and video calls without prior notice are considered intrusive.

Sending sexual content and sexually harassing someone online is also considered a criminal activity as per POSH law. A virtual space is not a license, to cross limits and boundaries and one should remember that.

Some Pointers

  1. Remember to treat others the way you want to be treated.
  2. Introduce yourself properly. Remember you are connecting virtually and not in person.
  3. Use emoticons wisely, e.g., using a heart emoji now and then gives the wrong signals. Display them when communicating in less formal environments and with people who know you well.
  4. Try not to hurt others’ feelings or offend.
  5. Avoid the use of all caps, as it is depicted as shouting. All caps can be used deliberately to emphasise a word you think is important but all communication in caps shows arrogance and shouting.
  6. Consider others’ gender, culture and personal practices. Avoid gender- and culture-related or personally offensive jokes.
  7. Think before hitting the send button – remember once ONLINE always online.
  8. Run a quick spell check and proofread; it demonstrates professionalism. This is more important when your smartphone has an autocorrect feature.
  9. Be pleasant and polite; help others when possible. Use words like ‘please’, ‘kindly’ etc.
  10. Be specific. Avoid rambling on to get your point across. According to a study by Microsoft Corp., people lose their attention after eight seconds. If you want your message read, remember less is more.
  11. Never respond to an email only with an emoji. It is acceptable in casual communication on social media with people who know you well but not in formal communication.
  12. Follow a proper email format.
  13. Use recipients’ names correctly.
  14. Subject lines should be short and specific.
  15. Respond to emails promptly.

While we should follow netiquette for better communication, we shouldn’t forget that the way we communicate is ever-changing. And new technological challenges will emerge. Be ready for the change and make an effort to communicate what you want without being misinterpreted.

To read more English blogs, please visit our blog section.

Mukta Chaitanya

The author is a Social Media Researcher and freelance Journalist

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