Netiquette: Respecting others on social media platforms

From the beginning man has been known to be a social animal, we communicate and interact with each other on a daily basis. The ways of interacting with others, especially those who are far away from us seem to have gotten much better, simpler, and easier over the years.

Human beings have gone from encrypting messages on stones and using pigeons to sending letters, using telephones and faxes to social media, emails, and instant messaging. The latter have made life much easier for people. We are able to communicate with each other instantly and without much hassle.

Despite this, there seem to be a downside to all of this, in the beginning, social media and instant messaging were perceived to be forms of casual communication but they have since crossed the border and are now being used more on the formal environment. In South Africa for example, these modes of communication were used mostly by young people but adults are also starting to get the hang of things, they have also joined the party and are now using these modes of communication.

Because others take these modes of communication as informal and casual. They have lost the sense of how they should treat others; they do not show others respect when interacting with others on social media and instant messaging networks and platforms. They also don’t consider other people’s feeling when it comes to what they are sharing or posting.

This transcends beyond online, looking at how we are expected to treat others’ gadgets and devices, things like cell phones, iPods, iPads, laptops, and computers. The issue of invading other people’s privacy and snooping onto their phones or their social media or instant messaging accounts, using other people’s gadgets and devices without their permission. How far we should go even when given the permission to use them, the boundaries we should set when it comes to allowing others to use our own gadgets and devices.

Another issue is how we use these gadget and device when in public. Looking at music and other audios and videos, for example, how loud do we play them on these gadgets when we are around others? In which kinds of environments is it acceptable to play them out loud? When is it acceptable to put on our headsets and how loud do we play the music in both the cases?

As Africans, respect has always been one thing we value most, especially when it comes to communicating and interacting with others, most especially those older than us. Despite this, young people find it acceptable to use swear words, slang and informal and disrespectful tones when communicating amongst themselves. This is something which is considered to be disrespectful, rude and offensive when communicating with elders.

It is considered to be disrespectful to raise one’s voice when talking to elders. Some tones and words are also disrespectful to others, not just elders. This brings us language and the tone we use when it comes to all these modern communication platforms even when it comes to actual calls. How loud do we speak when taking calls in public? In spaces is it acceptable to take our calls? The use of normal etiquette, greeting others when beginning the conversation and saying your goodbyes when ending it.

Remember, what might be normal, friendly or fine when saying it to our buddies might not be that way when it comes to others. While we might find something funny, it might be disrespectful and offensive when it comes to the next person. But then again, this becomes a bit difficult when it comes to these communication channels because in some cases, we communicate with strangers, so we sometimes don’t know how old the people we are talking to are.

Another issue is that of posting and uploading stuff on social media, how do we check, the positivity and the negativity of what we are sharing, the impact and the effect it will have on others? We also need to look at how social media and instant messaging platforms are affecting personal relationships, consider what irks others.

With these social media platforms, we are also able to share what others have posted or uploaded. We are also able to share what we post or upload on other people’s walls or pages. The question however remains, where do we draw the line when it comes to all these?

When is it acceptable to tag others when we post or upload our own stuff? Who do we tag? Looking at the fact that we are also able to react to what others post, share or upload on these social media platforms, it seems like other people don’t consider the feelings of others when reacting to other people’s posts.

For example, a person posts about an accident they were involved in and another person reacts with a like. Even these reactions might be offensive, rude or disrespectful. It is not only these reactions which might be out of place but the responses on others’ posts and even the messages they send to us.

How do we maintain respect when it comes to these social media and instant messaging platforms? How do we avoid being rude and disrespectful towards others or even offending them? How do we deal with those who are being rude, disrespectful and offensive towards us?  I mean, in some cases it is still considered disrespectful to respond to others in a certain way even if this person was being rude or disrespectful towards you.

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