When cell phones became “smart” using computational functions and targeted applications to enhance the user experience, they went from being a day-to-day tool for communication to the most indispensable aspect of human life in the developed world. That means your phone isn’t just a function but an extension of yourself. It contains your social and work calendars, e-mail correspondences, text exchanges, personal photos, banking information, hot takes on last night’s Game of Thrones episode, and all manner of records on your shopping and spending habits.
Given our dependence, it’s no wonder that cell phone use is at an all-time high worldwide, with the average human now spending more than four hours a day scrolling through their phones. There’s a good chance that the majority of communication you have with people who are not in your immediate environment takes place on your phone, taking a multitude of forms – from tweets and Facebook posts to Instagram comments and Snapchat-filtered videos.
Where once online communication seemed ephemeral and distant, virtual reality has come to take the place of IRL reality for many people. However, a fundamental disconnect remains because the process of communication is a step removed from the traditional mode – when you leave a comment on a celebrity’s Instagram account, does it feel like you’re really talking to them? No.
Instead, it feels like a symbolic gesture projected at an avatar and, because the internet provides anonymity for many users, they feel free to say what they really mean. Translation: People are ruder online than they would ever dare be in real life. That means ignored texts, trolling comments, and personal attacks are part and parcel of participating in modern living.
Decades ago, social order was ruled by notions outlined in flowery tomes, like Emily Post’s famous guide to etiquette. Yet, no one has penned anything like that for 21st century, and so online communication remains unordered and lawless. For that reason, one must learn to follow these four rules of social-media etiquette in order to survive a new era of technology-driven communication.
The majority of people now use the internet to invite friends and family to events, from Facebook invites to personal text message requests. What we all ought to realize is that, at this very moment, a host of people require responses to invitations for very practical reasons.
People need headcounts in order to provide adequate supplies at parties, and a venue might need to know how many people will show up so it knows how much seating to arrange. Other people’s time is just as valuable as your own, which is why we recommend that you respond to an invitation in less than one hour to a personal text invite, and within one week for an e-vite of any kind.
Even if the answer is “no”, the most helpful thing you can do in this situation is supply a concrete answer. Be realistic about your willingness and ability to attend, and respond accordingly. Don’t leave the invitation twisting in the wind, do not wait until the last minute to respond, and never bring an uninvited guest along (unless given specific permission by the host to do so).
Millions of people use social media and the internet to conduct their business, but since people tend to manage more than one account, there are a lot of avenues for communication. When dealing with business specifically, we recommend using appropriate channels to contact a person, brand, or corporation.
For example, if you are an aspiring stylist who wants to book a model for an upcoming shoot, do not try to seek her out directly via her personal Instagram account. That is a highly unprofessional move. Reach out to her agency, and book her through it instead. The same cross-applies for any industry. Those channels are in place for a reason – use them.
Return the Favor
The art of reciprocity is lost on so many social-media users. Here is the bottom line: if someone tags you, signal boosts you, links to you, or otherwise helps other people take notice of you or your brand, reciprocate in kind. For example, if you’re throwing an event and someone tweets about it, retweet them. This gives visibility to your cause and helps throw a little spotlight back on the person who boosted your signal.
Since social-media communication is largely impersonal, it can be easy to forget that there are real humans on the other end. Professionals are adept at reciprocity, knowing that a favor paid is a favor owed. Even in the virtual world, that still translates to social currency.
Online vs. IRL
Speaking of real people being on the receiving end of virtual communications: there’s no longer a distinction between what happens online and in real life. You’ve likely heard stories about friends getting fired over what they posted on social media or boycotts that form to bring down harmful social-media accounts.
That’s because your online history is traceable, trackable, and almost impossible to get rid of – meaning what happens on the internet happens in the real world too. Treat others like real humans, no matter how angry or frustrated you might get. You never know when the person on the other end of a post, tweet, or snap might be someone you end up working with some day.