How To Practice Digital Etiquette in the Age of Social Media and “Fake News”

It’s time we really talked about digital citizenship, and in this article specifically, digital etiquette when sharing information.

What Is Digital Citizenship?

Digital citizenship also known as digital ethics or digital wellness covers how we interact with digital resources, and the online community as well as how we manage the impact of technology on mental, emotional and physical health. Digital etiquette is an important part of being a responsible digital citizen.

What is Digital Etiquette?

Digital etiquette is a pretty self-explanatory phrase. It means to practice good manners when communicating online. Netiquette is another term that is commonly used. Digital etiquette is super important because the way we communicate in person and the way we communicate online tends to be completely different.

When we communicate in person, there are nonverbal cues, like body language, and tone of voice that communicate most of our messages. The words we speak only take up so much of that communication space. When we communicate online, we only have words for the most part. So certain signals that we would have non-verbally sent or received in person are no longer being communicated. Thankfully, the use of emojis and gifs and memes helps with that, but only to a certain extent, because it’s harder to tell if someone is being honest. The blessing and the curse of online communication is that we have the power to take time and craft how we want to be perceived by those we are communicating with.

This is especially true with the explosion of social media in the last decade. The growth of social media makes the use of digital etiquette more necessary than ever before. Being aware of what information we share and how we share it on social media is crucial. Here are a few ways we can work on being more intentional about the information we share on social media, and how we respond to information shared.

Check Your Dates

It’s not easy. Social media has given us the ability to spread information with the touch of a button. It’s easier to press share and retweet than it is to actually read what we’re sharing. And while it takes more effort to read, we should ask ourselves one thing. Would you tell your neighbor about the story you read in last year’s newspaper like it’s happening today? If your answer is yes, you may have some issues that need to be examined. It is literally the equivalent of saying “OH MY GOSH something crazy is happening right now, but actually it was two years ago.”

Don’t Judge an Article By Its Headline

Here is a not-so-secret, secret. Headlines are mainly created to elicit some type of emotional response from you, to cause some type of reaction. As a content marketer, I understand the importance of a good headline. It catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to share what you have to say, it even makes them want to read what you have to say. While I, personally and professionally won’t intentionally use a headline with malicious intent, there are people who do! Therefore, just going off of what an article says can lead to the inaccurate sharing of information. You have to read the article. You have to read the article. YOU HAVE TO READ THE ARTICLE!

Maybe Do A Little Research

Fake news alone is dangerous not because of the creators who make it, but it is dangerous because of the population that spreads it without checking its accuracy. Before you share something, read it. Find out if the source is biased. In the space of politics, there are biased media outlets on ALL sides. Read a couple articles about the event/topic/situation before you share! It’s a little time consuming, I know, but isn’t the truth worth your time?

Remember There is Another Human Being On The Other Side of The Screen

Internet trolls. They’re everywhere and they’re everyone. Some are silent, watching everyone in the background without ever really saying anything (I’m definitely one of those). Others are ready to jump on whatever status or update you’ve posted to argue and debate your points of view. A few will even silently troll you and then post a status about something you and maybe several other people posted over a certain time period.

Either way, we’ve all seen them and we’ve all been one. But what is important to remember is that on the other side of that post, video, picture or whatever you are commenting on, there is an actual human being. Maybe it’s important to ask ourselves one question before we start typing, “would I say this to this person’s face?” If the answer is no, then maybe you should rethink what you’re about to say.

While comments on blogs, videos, forums and other forms of social media come with a level of anonymity, it doesn’t grant anyone the right to be or spew hatefulness just because no one is technically holding them accountable.

Honestly, if you don’t feel like you can stamp your name and picture to what you’re saying on the internet, then maybe you shouldn’t be saying it. Now I’m not saying there aren’t extreme cases in countries outside of the US, where freedom of speech is severely limited or non-existent. In those cases, anonymity is very beneficial as it protects lives.

Encourage Others To Mind Their Manners…Digitally

If you are already pretty intentional about what and how you share information online, encourage others around you to do the same. I am no stranger to telling people that an article they shared was factually inaccurate or that they found that missing person three years ago. There’s no need to comment on their posts and publicly embarrass them either. All it takes is a quick private message informing them about the inaccuracy of whatever they posted.

With the increasing amount of false information being spread on the internet, everyone complains about the media’s involvement. It is true that they are apart of the problem that we find ourselves facing on a more consistent basis. But you are what you share. If you share incorrect information, that is on you. If you don’t care to look into what you are sharing, you are apart of the problem.

We can blame everything on the media and use it as the scapegoat to escape our own responsibilities and failures as responsible communicators because that is the easy option. But the truth is, we all play a part in how information is spread, therefore it is not just up to the leaders of the various social platforms, or the media powerhouses to change things. It is up to us to be more intentional about the information we share.

We are apart of the solution, just as much as we are apart of the problem.

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