I awoke this morning wondering how many friendships have been sacrificed due to poor netiquette. Email etiquette, or best practices, has been in the news lately as Hillary Clinton has drawn fire for her seemingly poor judgement regarding use of e-mail. Since this is a hot topic, I decided to weigh in.
About 20 years ago, I received a letter via snail mail in which the sender was frustrated that I had never replied, commented, or otherwise acknowledged her emails. Because of this, she assumed the relationship had grown strained, even though I didn’t know she was trying to reach me. After reading the letter, I let her know that the email address she had in her contact list was not valid. This type of miscommunication is rampant in today’s world of high-speed instant communication.
Netiquette was a new word to me about three years ago as I was taking online classes. The word was coined to encourage proper etiquette in society’s online behavior—so much so that many universities and businesses offer seminars on effective use of digital communication based on these guidelines. Simple things like identifying oneself, using the elements of a friendly letter, salutations and closings, being polite and politically correct, following the rules and security measures of one’s IT department, along with using basic common sense govern how we use our devices.
We have access to so many methods which enable us to communicate digitally, that many of us are stumped when we actually need to pick the phone and dial a number. Texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Instant Messenger, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook have filled the niche once owned by email. In the same manner that email has functionally replaced telephone communication and snail mail, these social media apps have cornered the market.
As I was thinking about how relationships are dependent on this abstract communication that we all currently use led me to the conclusion that we need to slow down and take time for each other. We should answer our email. Even it is a simple, “Got it.” or “Thanks!” That way the sender is assured that the message was received and that you appreciate the time it took to send. If an email arrives in my inbox that clearly is not intended for me, I generally send a reply letting the sender know that their message was not delivered to the right person.
With all of the filters that try to automatically detect spam, junk, and mass mailings—sometimes things get lost in transmission. Proper use of netiquette will help all of us be assured that in this high-tech, speedy world we are still able to communicate effectively.
Here is a link to a great resource if you want to read more about this topic.