Guidelines of Good Online Behavior—For Authors & Everyone Else

by Edie Melson

Recently I’ve
been reminded what a small world publishing really is. Even if we don’t
actually know each other, it’s likely that we have friends and associates
in common. Because it’s such a small world, it’s important for us to all pay
attention to how we interact, especially online. What I say and do, doesn’t
just affect me. The ripples of my actions spread out and affect many others. So
before we go bumping and jumping into the New Year, I thought I’d give us all a
refresher in online etiquette.
of Good Online Behavior
  • Remember
    this—what happens online, STAYS ONLINE.
    If you don’t want someone to be able to dig up the dirt on you, don’t
    say or do anything online you might be ashamed of later.
  • Know
    where you are.
    By this I
    mean, etiquette varies from site to site online. What flies on Twitter may be
    seen as cutting or slightly rude on Facebook.  Email to a friend is a
    totally different animal from email to a business associate. Take time to learn
    the guidelines for all the sites you frequent.
  • Always
    play nice.
    Like I said,
    it’s a small world. And like any other small world, people talk. Even if
    they’re not gossiping, people notice things and they ask questions.
  • Be
    respectful of others need for privacy.
    If you have the occasion to send a group email, be sure to hide
    everyone else’s email address unless you have specific permission to share.
  • Don’t
    spam someone’s inbox. 
    usually happens when someone starts up a new blog and/or website. The person
    doesn’t have many blog followers and sends an email to all their friends
    announcing the new site and asking for support. Once or twice for this is fine.
    More than that is considered spam.
  • Avoid
    name calling. 
    I know
    none of us would ever call someone else a derogatory name online, but we could
    be guilty of labeling someone incorrectly. It’s important to learn
    the difference between, unfollowing/unfriending and blocking someone on social
    media. Although ending an online interaction may sometimes be necessary, be
    careful how you do it. Unfollowing and unfriending are fine, painful, but fine.
    But if you take the next step and block someone’s access, especially on
    Twitter, you can do them very real harm. Twitter gets notice that the person
    being blocked is a spammer and can take steps to suspend or shut down that
    account. This is fine if the person being blocked is abusive or a real danger.
    But be sure that’s the case before you take that step and label them.
  • Assume
    the best motives in others.
    there are very few cruel and vindictive people out there. Most hurt feelings
    come from misunderstandings. It’s important that we give others the same kind
    of benefit-of-the-doubt we’d like to have.
  • Don’t
    be a feed hog.
    doesn’t matter if it’s bouncing blog post notices on Facebook and Twitter,
    Google plus updates, or even email, be careful that you don’t send multiple
    updates to your friends and followers in a short amount of time.
  • Be
    careful with sarcasm.
    have a pretty broad sense of humor, but I have to be careful when I’m writing
    something out—in email and on social media. I’ve discovered that, most of the
    time, sarcasm can be misinterpreted online.
  • Exercise
    the golden rule.
    Do unto
    others as you would have other do unto you.

Personally, I’ve
never run into an instance where I regretted behaving nicely. But there are
plenty of times that I’ve wished I could have taken back thoughtless behavior.
Now it’s your turn. What sort of things irritate you online? Now’s the time to

Melson is an author, freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation,
reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy,
the Social Media Director for Southern Writers
, and the Senior Editor for Connect with
her on Twitter and Facebook.