Share If You Agree: 5 tips for Netiquette

Remember when everyone said email was going to save us so much time?  How’s that working out for you?

Progress comes with its price. The printing press spawned junk mail.  Alexander Graham Bell’s fabulous phone begat tele-marketers.

Now, thanks to the accessibility of the web, people have gone trigger happy on send, cc, and reply all.  I routinely get a cc’d on hundreds of unnecessary emails, and my social media is clogged with sappy sayings and stories about a little girl and an angel. Apparently, if I do not repost these sappy stories, it will be taken as evidence that no one cares.

Count me in the “You’re right, I don’t care” category because I’ve hidden most of those people on my social media, and I use aggressive spam filtering. Unnecessary business emails are harder to weed out. People want to be kept in the loop, but if you’re on the email chain for every project, you’ll never get any work done. I can’t tell you how many times people have sent me 10 or 15 documents about an issue, just so I’ll “have everything.” But too much information is worse than too little.  When people have too much information, they don’t read any of it.

I spoke with Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute, the country’s foremost authority on etiquette, who confirms, “People don’t use the best judgment when they send you things.”

Here are five tips to keep yourself for good Netiquette:

  1. Fix Before Forwarding – If you are going to forward something, at least have the courtesy to delete the stuff sitting on top of the text you want people to read.  The receiver is not your secretary.  They shouldn’t have to troll through seven forwards and five never-ending signature lines to get to the actual message.
  2. Pare it down – Give people what they need to know, not everything you have on the subject. Think back to the old days, ask yourself, would this be worth photo copying and mailing? If not, it’s probably not worth emailing either. Email is not the place for stream of consciousness or buckets of info. If you want someone to take action, give them a summary of the top line facts.
  3. Validating before posting – You may have received it from your highly educated brother-in-law, but your urban rumor has long since been proven false by I hate to break it to you, but Starbucks did not refuse coffee to the military; kale is not killing people and neither is Hillary Clinton.
  4. Don’t presume – Just because someone looks like you, doesn’t mean they share your political views – even if you’re related. Anna Post says, “Presumption is one of the most impolite attitudes.  It’s inexcusable.  If you do it without knowing you look ignorant. If you do it on purpose you look arrogant.” It is, she says, “Atrocious.”
  5. Use Bcc instead of Cc  – If you must mass email, don’t publicly post everyone’s address in the Send field.  No one wants your Amway-selling neighbor to have their personal email address.  Bcc (blind carbon copy) sits right below Send and Cc – Use it.

So next time your sister-in-law posts post a puppy parable, feel free to hide it.  And if your coworkers are sending too many files your way, forward them this column.