For the next few months, our lives will almost entirely be shifted into the online space, and no matter if it’s a Whatsapp group chat, a Facebook group, a hobby community, or your energy provider’s online forum: you will interact with people through comments, posts, likes, and many, many memes!
Especially if you’re not a digital native, or even if you are but you’ve preferred to cultivate your connections through mainly face to face interactions up to now, it is important to understand these online spaces and to learn how to live in them.
We have pulled together key points from the unofficial online community etiquette to help you get off to the best start!
1. Introduce yourself!
Whenever you join a new online space, treat it as if you were in a room full of people you have never met. It’s always nice to say hello and introduce yourself, this way you can find out more about the other members of the community and they about you.
2. Be honest
Don’t act like you are interested in something you’re not. The best way to interact with people online is by bonding over things you mutually care about. Just like in real life, it will be obvious if you talk about stuff you have no clue about or actually don’t care about that much! Stay true to yourself and your interests.
3. Keep it relevant
When you engage in other people’s conversations, don’t disrupt ongoing discussions with information, links, or comments that are off-topic – only engage if you have something valuable to contribute to the discussion! It’s tempting to share something you are excited about and try to steer the conversation away from its original purpose so you can chat about it – but think twice. Simply put, don’t share cat memes if people are talking about their dogs!
4. Be nice
Just because you’re talking to someone you have never met before, don’t throw your good manners overboard. See the person on the other end of the conversation as they are: a human being. This has never been more important than now, when people are being forced to socially distance themselves and are often alone at home. It is easy to fall into a zone that is a bit different from real life. Don’t forget that what you do, say or imply could hurt people and could have consequences! If you feel your emotions running high, take a step back and assess where the anger is coming from.
5. Share, but fight disinformation
People love to find new things that excite them. If you find a new game you enjoy, a song, important information about current events – share them! But be sure that what you share is valid, background-checked, and of interest for the group you are sharing with. This way, you will position yourself as trustworthy and interesting.
6. Stay safe
Online communities are a great space to connect and bond, especially now when people have to stay home to stay safe. However, these places can also get very intense! Whenever you feel like your engagement in an online space doesn’t serve its purpose anymore but actually drains you of your valuable energy and time, let it go! Often when we’re stuck at home, we forget that we need to take breaks and refocus. Sometimes we spend countless hours in front of our screens without actually doing anything. This is when we forget ourselves and might do things we later regret. Try to recognise when this happens to you and take yourself out of that situation to have a break!!!
7. Read twice and take a breath
Having said that, sometimes what’s written online can be misinterpreted by the one reading it and make them feel offended about something the author didn’t intend to. Remember that not everyone is as eloquent as Shakespeare, and many will fall into the trap of writing a comment which they intend to be sarcastic and witty, but which comes across as just plain mean. Unless someone calls you something to your face, don’t let it get to you!
8. DON’T SHOUT
See what we did there? Capitalisation always makes it look like you are making a point aggressively or even shouting at someone. Use punctuation to emphasize a point instead! It’s much…much, more effective.
There is nothing nicer than having a great conversation about your favorite movie, music, or hobby with someone. Passion overflows and you get excited. Seek our communities that allow you to do that and share your love with them.
10. Make friends
The people on the internet should be your friends, not your enemies! It is fun and important to make friends online, it’s a chance to meet people who share your interests and can help you solve problems during the crisis. It is an amazing experience to gain friends from around the world, learn about their views and share yours in return. These people can often end up becoming important to you, and who knows, maybe you will meet them in real life.
Now you know how to navigate the world of online communities, go and enjoy yourself! They can be amazing places for you to make connections, learn and have fun, and in this difficult time, they are more important than ever.