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When communicating in person, according to researcher Albert Mehrabian, 55 percent of the information is body language, 38 percent is tone and just 7 percent is contained in the actual words. But when we move to online communication, the words have to take over for the remaining 93 percent of the meaning lost from nonverbal cues. So, until we completely evolve into communicating through emoticons, some etiquette tips will be helpful.
5 Ask Great Questions
Though it’s not rude to make statements, it is far more inviting to ask questions. If you just met someone at a party, you’d probably ask her a host of questions to draw her out and develop a relationship: What do you do? How long have you lived here? Do you prefer juggling knives or torches? You can do the same thing online by creating space for engaging dialog. Instead of using blanket statements that tend to group people into either opposition or agreement, you can ask questions that explore the differences. So, instead of stating a political preference, you can ask a question about political thoughts. Be careful on this one, because loaded questions can be as bad as negative statements. Be sure to read your question in your Fran Drescher voice before posting it to make sure it isn’t veiled criticism instead of an honest question.
4 Make Positive Statements
It’s good to believe strongly in your position, but it often turns people off when those strong beliefs are shared publicly in a negative manner. Although It might make the talking heads on the news fun to watch, negativity doesn’t usually translate well into a conversation with other human beings. Quite often if a view is attacked, it’s construed as a personal attack. You can still support your beliefs by making positive statements about what you believe rather than tearing down opposing views. So, don’t say that all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the spawn of the devil — that’s negative. Rather, point out how healthful and delicious peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches are.
3 Wait and See
Especially when you’re entering a new online space, take time to see what the rules of the road are. On some sites it’s perfectly permissible to post lewd jokes and personally attack other users. On other sites those activities would result in immediate dismissal. Take some time to see how other people are using the site, and more importantly, how those people are received. For example, are you correctly using hashtags on Twitter? Are you not linking to the original image on Reddit? Are you sending too many Farmville requests on Facebook? Look to see what annoys people and what generates interaction before you jump in with both feet.
2 Imagine You’re Someone Else
It may seem counter-intuitive, and even contradictory, to suggest that you be yourself in one breath and then suggest you pretend to be someone else in the next. However, it’s a good tool for rereading what you type before you post it. Pretend to be the most sarcastic, snide, facetious person you can imagine–Fran Drescher or Bill Maher maybe–and then read your comment aloud. You’ll get an idea of the worst way that it could be interpreted. If, despite your best efforts, it still doesn’t sound sarcastic, then it’s probably OK to post.
1 Be Yourself
It is a common temptation to assume a different personality online, according to Stanford University psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude. For example, Batman. Under the guise of a pseudonym, you may feel more able to say and do things that wouldn’t otherwise be acceptable. Not only does this destroy any possibility of relationship, but, Aboujaoude argues, it has disastrous effects on the individual. Instead of assuming an identity online, be yourself. The knowledge that your words and actions can be tied to you personally will help you to practice good etiquette online.