Internet usage brings up new etiquette questions

Sunday, December 14, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:21 a.m. CST, Monday, December 15, 2008
Netiquette is a social code of conduct for the Web, when normal face-to-face interactions become faceless.

COLUMBIA – The Internet can be a liberating place. Sites like Facebook and MySpace allow users to connect anywhere from across the street to across the country. Second Life gives users the ability to literally reinvent themselves and the way they present themselves to others online. Blogs, chat rooms and message boards give users a way to open up and connect, often anonymously, in ways they sometimes can't offline. Governing all these countless, normally faceless interactions are the informal rules of netiquette.

"Netiquette is the idea of a certain code of conduct when interacting in an online environment," said Tanys Nelson, coordinator of educational technologies at MU.

Netiquette 101

Do not change the wording of e-mails you forward. If it is a personal message, ask the writer's permission before sending.

Respect copyright law on materials you use.

Do not forward chain letters.

Typing in all uppercase letters indicates you are shouting.

Typing in all lowercase letters is considered mumbling.

Use smiley faces, known as emoticons, to help denote tone of voice. However, do not assume using an emoticon will guarantee that your intended meaning will be understood.

Using symbols puts emphasis on the word.

Flaming, or purposefully posting incendiary comments on a message board, is considered rude and might get you kicked off the site.

"Hijacking" a discussion board, or changing the subject of the original post, is frowned upon.

Reposting the same message multiple times, advertising yourself or advertising a business are all considered spam and might result in you being barred from a site.

Source: Internet Engineering Task Force

In other words: "Even though you're online and not face-to-face, you should still act in a way that is civil and respectful," Nelson said.

The idea of netiquette first emerged in a memo released by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1995. According to its Web site, the task force "is a large, open, international community of network designers, operators, vendors and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet." The organization works with other groups to establish standard Internet practices. The memo, RFC 1855, established guidelines for communications among individuals as well as among groups.

Often good netiquette comes down to what etiquette maven Emily Post called "a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others."

"It's about making sure people are respectful," Nelson said.

However, because of the anonymous, faceless nature of online interaction, enforcing the norms of netiquette can be difficult.

"I think people hide behind a keyboard," said Donell Young, coordinator of MU's office of judicial services. "They think, 'I can be as tough as I want to be on a computer.'"

Young's office is responsible for investigating alleged violations of the student code of conduct, including MU's Internet policy. Often, Young said, students use freedom of expression to defend themselves.

"Yes, you can say these things, but is it the right thing?" said Young, for whom the term "netiquette" was new. "Yeah, you have a right, but you shouldn't talk to people that way."

The lack of face-to-face interaction can also lead to violations of netiquette. It's impossible to interpret tone, body language and facial expressions when communicating online. This leads to confusion and misinterpretation when reading content online, particularly when the poster tries to use humor or sarcasm.

The key to overcoming this potential problem, Young said, is to take other viewpoints into account and to distance yourself from emotions, particularly anger, when writing something for the Web.

"The first thing you have to realize is that everyone is different. You have to respect that," Young said. "Just kind of step back, take the emotion out of it. Think, 'How would I feel if someone sent that to me?'"

Because netiquette is based on individual interpretations to unique situations, it can be taught in different ways. Julie Nichols, who is the manager of instructional technologies for Columbia Public Schools, said the district bases its netiquette curriculum — which really uses that name — on the state's recommendations, but each teacher uses a different lens.

"It's like asking how you teach an individual student how to read," Nichols said.

As the Internet became widespread and computers moved into the classroom, netiquette became increasingly important for educators.

"In the last two to three years, technology has been moving so quickly," Nichols said. "My department has been talking about (netiquette) a lot more."

Nichols' department helps develop ways to integrate the Internet into the district's curriculum. Nelson does a similar job for MU. Both cited the importance of establishing ground rules and norms for using digital tools in the classroom.

"Without (netiquette), you're not letting students know they are in an environment that is safe and conducive to education," Nelson said.

Teaching netiquette is important, Nichols said, so students know what is expected of them both in an academic setting as well as in a less-structured environment.

"You need to have your policies and expectations up front," she said. "We want to create positive digital citizens, both at school and at home."

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Charles Dudley Jr December 14, 2008 | 10:38 a.m.

Isn't freedom of speech wonderful when others want to nullify what you really want to post on the internet.

Why should being or speaking across the internet be any different than I would talk to you to your face in public if presented with the same words,statements and presentations you would use on the internet in communicating with anybody?

What you have to hide behind a fake name leaving no trace or trail to your true identity? That is the definition of paranoia. They do have doctors available for such issues as that.

Pretty soon freedom of speech across the internet will be as big of a hassle as it is now out in the real world we live in.

When that happens you will see alot more of those "Underground Web Sites" spring up more than they are now giving anybody and everybody their choice to be able to speak up as they want with our fear of any retaliations.

If you cannot keep it real on the internet how can you possibly keep it real in the real flesh and blood world of real life itself. Truth is you can't.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken December 15, 2008 | 7:40 p.m.

"Typing in all lowercase letters is considered mumbling."

This is completely untrue.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 1, 2009 | 4:35 a.m.

Chuck, we have found agreement......


(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 1, 2009 | 4:46 a.m.

Here is a paradox. Does it occur to anyone that "netiquette" appears to imply the right way to post on the Internet, while at the same time attempting to discreetly intimidate people that are posting on the Internet out of their right to free speech and parody?


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 5:23 a.m.

When netiquette is ignored to the point of your chasing off or belittling other posters on purpose because you believe that you can with no repercussions then there is a problem.

That is one reason I left that other board because of the sloppy Moderation and lack of real respect by that Administration and Moderation for it's posting and non posting membership. That is why when I go surfing looking for real quality forum boards I look at those boards where all are respected equally and the behaviors by members on that other board are not tolerated and people like that are banned or they just leave. There are more mature forum boards on those "Underground Scene" sites than that other forum board by far. That is what I meant in reference to the "Underground Scene".

The Web Administrator/Staff here have alot more respect for their posting participants and readers

Why post where obviously the Moderating staff does not care.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 1, 2009 | 7:26 a.m.

I am sure that it is not hat "they don't care". I think it is more of a matter of them trying to strike a balance between giving the posters the right to express theirselves as they feel, not censoring their posters, allowing the free and open exchange of ideas on their board, observing free speech, and also insuring that TRUE abuse does not occur.

This is a difficult balance to strike. However, the notion in our Judicial System has always been that censorship is far more harmful than allowing someone to say something, or post something that might "hurt someone's feelings". I agree.And if this notion were in reverse, where would our News Papers be today?

You HAVE to respect a person that is trying to keep that balance.

I want to be a member in forums where the Moderator does not "over-moderate".


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 9:40 a.m.

I have no respect for any forum Moderator or Administrator who allows the types of things going on over on that other forum board. I never have and never will. I have owner and worked on many forums and still do where those types of behaviors are not allowed nor tolerated. It makes for a much healthier online community.

Neither do,nor will I have respect for the ownership of that other forum board either who continue to allow those things to go on that instead of drawing in posters turn those potential posting members away.

Now if they pulled their act together my mind might change.

That is not "good" Moderation nor Administration by far. You might think it is but do you really see alot of locals posting there(there are alot of locals online,more than you might think there are)? Do you see actual forum expansion over there as there should be? Do you see new sections being created? Do you see any regular posters being asked or offered to be promoted to be Volunteer Moderators? Do you even see their paid staff actually doing anything at all?

That is what real posting forum boards of that type are about is truly building a solid based community and making and building it up as time goes on.

You might think it is funny to see porno graphic pictures posted on that other board or some nitwit spammer cloning other members but many do not.

That is another reason people online go to "blogging" to get away from forum boards like that other one and to be sure their opinions can be presented with out being attacked. That is why blogs are growing and forum boards are dwindling due to the type of Administration and Moderation that goes on at that other forum. That type of management kills off potentially great forum boards.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 1, 2009 | 10:12 a.m.

Almost all forums have more readers than posters, JUST AS MOST BLOGS WHERE COMMENTS ARE ALLOWED DO!

I also moderate a few groups that are not opened to the public, they are for P.I.s. And I WANT people to feel free to express their anger and frustration as well as their delight and kind regards on these forums. I WANT people to know that they don't have to "pretend" to be something they are not to post on these groups. I want people that feel like they have an issue to take on a particular topic to feel like they can take that issue forward as vigorously as possible without actually HARMING another person. I have been on the Internet for a LONG time, and I have seen more good come from vigorous debate than from heavy moderation.

If one wants a "positive experience", then perhaps they should go to church? But I am quite sure that a strictly "positive experience" should not be expected on the Internet; nor even on any forum on the Internet. This goes without saying to anyone that has been on the Internet over 4 hours. Realism should be the order of the day, especially on the Internet. And to be real we must admit that people will say things we don't like, people will talk about us, people will try to embarrass us, people will compliment us, people are kind, people are cruel, and in this mixture, most of us learn that reality is something that sooner or later we all have to confront and deal with, and how we do this will determine the quality of our lives....


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 10:39 a.m.

Not to the points that disrupt or drive away members that is the point. It is not about heavy moderation as you try to portray but it is about though building a healthy community and not one that is one sided or dysfunctional or allowed to become that way.

That other board fits all of the latter description to a "T".

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 1, 2009 | 12:06 p.m.

Chuck/Rick: The new year just started and I'm board already.
[Often good netiquette comes down to what etiquette maven Emily Post called "a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others."]
Just because her last name was Post, doesn't make her no internet communications maven.
(I hope I typed that last sentence correctly. I only use my middle finger on my key board and it's awfully calloused.)

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 1, 2009 | 1:48 p.m.

This phrase REALLY "sticks out" to me: "Because netiquette is based on individual interpretations to unique situations"........ Because what is says in its own way is that what may be abusive, polite, "mean", and/or kind, is open for interpretation. Thus making my idea of "netiquette" just as valid as anyone else's, since it seems that it is completely open to interpretation.......


(Report Comment)

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