We create personal pages, post messages, and interact via mediated technologies as a normal part of our lives, but how we conduct ourselves can leave a lasting image, literally. Several years ago, when the internet was a new phenomenon, Virginia Shea laid out a series of ground rules for communication online that continue to serve us today.

Virginia Shea’s Rules of Netiquette

  • Remember the human on the other side of the electronic communication.
  • Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life.
  • Know where you are in cyberspace.
  • Respect other people’s time and bandwidth.
  • Share expert knowledge.
  • Respect other people’s privacy.
  • Don’t abuse your power.
  • Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes (Shea, 1994).

One of the really difficult things about this particular moment in workplace communication is that many people have to be online for their jobs, but risk online is unevenly distributed. For example, one 11-year study found that 71% of victims in online harassment cases were women[1]. Racialized people also experience more harassment. A Pew study found that 25% of black Americans had been harassed because of their race online.[2]. LGBTQ2S+ youth are also three times more likely to experience online harassment.[3].

When you post online, it’s great to upload standards of professionalism, but it’s also important to think about the wider context around you. For example, you might use Twitter to follow experts in your field from diverse backgrounds and open yourself up to perspectives you might not have considered. If your company has a Slack channel or Discord server, you might pay attention to the dynamics that go on between employees. When people joke around, whose expense is it at? Whose voice is the loudest? Whose perspective is ignored?

And while many people give advice about “building your brand” online, people who are successful on social media often listen more than they post. They amplify other people’s voices when they aren’t an expert on the subject. They’re true to their own personality. We’ll talk more about social media in Chapter 15.




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Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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