Editor’s note: this is a guest post by writer Tahlia Newland.
Your online presence in all its incarnations is your public face. Readers only know you from what you say, and since the written word can be read repeatedly–read by people the words were not intended for and potentially misinterpreted by others–we have to be careful what we say, and how we say it, because a retweet is just a click away.
We have etiquette for face-to-face social situations, or “manners,” and it occurs to me that if we drew parallels between ordinary socializing and online socializing, the relevant manners could be extremely helpful for understanding why some people become offended at certain behaviors.
The Rules of Etiquette 2.0
When observing etiquette, we need to remember the following:
- Avoid talking only about yourself.
- Show interest in others by asking them questions about themselves.
- Listen to others.
- Don’t shout or use offensive language.
- Respect others and their opinions, even if you disagree.
Following these manners will not only stop us from spamming on the web, but it will also allow us to create genuine relationships–rather than the one-sided ‘look at me and only me’ communication that people, especially those wanting to sell something you’re not interested in buying, can easily fall prey to on social networks.
Etiquette 2.0: Practical Application
An author wants to make friends, especially friends who will talk to their friends about the author’s work in a positive way. These friends want as many friends as possible, so they start a blog, for instance.
Now, having a blog is like throwing a party. If the party isn’t open to everyone, then you aren’t going to make new friends. Readers have the assumption that authors do want friends, so they expect to be able to come to the party, and they’ll be offended if they get turned away. If the house is full (if the blog is popular), they expect to be able to spill over onto the street. If the party’s that big, guests won’t expect to actually see or talk to the person throwing the party (the author), but they do expect to be welcome, especially if the person throwing the “party” wants something from them, like buying their book or spreading the word about their book.
Having a blog is also like you standing on a soapbox in the park. Consider that you have put yourself out there in the pubic eye for all to see and for all to agree or disagree with. Are you going to try to stop people from voicing their opinions? Or ignore anyone trying to tell you what they think? Behaving in this manner would look pretty arrogant and would have people turning away in disgust.
So, in order to not be someone who shuns their guests at a party, or one who hears no one but herself on a soapbox, enable comments on your blog and try to respond to those who comment. Make information easy to find on your site and be sure to give people some way to contact you, even if it will take you ages to get to the message, or even if you’ll never manage to read it. (If you’ve become very popular, maybe you could employ someone else to read and answer your messages on your behalf.)
If people buy your book in the real world, you’d say thank you, wouldn’t you? So don’t forget to say thank you to those online folk who support you. It’s even better if you can offer them something in return, like discounts, freebies, or behind-the-scenes extras.
If you’re too shy or insecure to handle these social situations, then perhaps it would be better not to get onto that “soap box” in the first place. If you’re absent for too long, your readers might be disappointed that you’re not there and will go and listen to someone else instead.
Above All Else: Be Considerate of Others
In the end, all etiquette, be it online or offline, comes down to four words: be considerate of others.
The best way to make sure that you’re being considerate is to always consider how it would feel if the person your were interacting with was you.
Tahlia Newland is the author of a YA fantasy novel called ‘Lethal Inheritance’. Her agent is presently in the process of finding a publisher. Read chapter one and find out more about her book at tahlianewland.com.
Can you think of any other parallels between manners in offline situations and manners in online situations? What would you add to the rules of Etiquette 2.0? Please share you thoughts with us in the comments below!
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