I have been involved in the internet community for many years, starting pre-internet with running a bulletin board system. Throughout this time, I have always tried to encourage the use of proper “netiquette”. Though I am mindful that not everyone understands the concept initially, those that choose to continuously utilize networks for communication should strive for proper, clear and concise methods.
One of the biggest violations of “netiquette” that I see frequently is the use of all capitalized letters. THIS IS THE ELECTRONIC EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING. Though useful at times, it is very difficult to read and adds a confusing tone to the message. As I have stated before, it is so difficult to transmit emotion via electronic means, the assumption of stress placed on messages such as these only complicates the matter.
That being said, the single worst violation in communication is the sending of messages that the recipient has no desire for. We have all dealt with the person who feels it their place to tell about their woes to anyone who will listen (or, better stated, to anyone who will stand there and pretend to listen). Most of us have received “cold calls” from marketing firms. And, those with email accounts are very familiar with SPAM, or unsolicited email messages. These messages are disruptive to the audience and to society as a whole, costing time, money, and causing frustration.
There are many instances of good and bad netiquette occurring daily, and though I have only mentioned two bad examples, I find the various modes of network communication to be positive, helpful and efficient means when used appropriately. In this age of technology, many of us are forced to communicate at a distance which makes network communications essential. Users of this technology should have an idea of the appropriate use of each, and each puts unique responsibilities on the user.
Cell phones are a great example of this. A cell phone should be used at any time synchronous communication is preferred or if the message is large and requires immediate feedback. Using a cell phone, though, places responsibility on the caller to ensure that they are free from distraction and will continue to have proper battery and signal strength during the entirety of the call.
Instant messaging and text messaging are by far the least formal modes of communication and should be used when the message units are small and the overall message is easy to comprehend. Instant messaging and text messaging are interchangeable, though with text messaging, the users tend to be more mobile which creates a social responsibility to be mindful of safety. Text messaging should never be done while driving or operating other machinery.
Email is the new postal service. Many of the formal requirements of email are being shed for ease of communication. In times past, a person would write a letter, but now, they write an email. Email is the chameleon of network communications. One may send simple one-line notes to friends and family and use the same mode to send a very formal budget proposal to their Chief Financial Officer. The use of email demands that the user takes responsibility for ensuring that the message is formed in such a way as to be appropriate to not only the intended recipient but the information enclosed in the message. Email should never be used when the delivery of the message needs to be guaranteed or is so time-sensitive that its immediate delivery is paramount.
Most importantly, keep the recipient’s needs in mind when choosing a mode of communication. The recipient will usually make clear the modes of communication that they prefer.