The art of good tech etiquette
Sr. Project Manager, TELUS Wise
Do you practice good tech etiquette? Find out how well you’re minding your tech manners with this quiz.
In a time when tech is part of virtually every aspect of our lives, it's not surprising that some of us have developed bad habits when interacting with it. And, unlike the user manual that comes with our latest gadgets, there isn't exactly a rule book on how to practice good tech etiquette. Some of our bad tech habits - that we are often oblivious to - are harmless, but others can be downright rude.
Tech etiquette, or ‘netiquette’, essentially refers to how polite we are when using technology day to day, how we interact with it, and how we consider the people around us when we do. To help us mind our tech manners and practice good tech etiquette, here are some simple tips to consider:
There’s a time and place: even though it’s all around us and we’re constantly connected, there is still an appropriate time and place for tech. Not everyone in the elevator or waiting room needs to be part of our lengthy phone conversations; be mindful of your surroundings and if it’s more than a quick call take your conversation to a private place. Other examples of using technology at the wrong time and place include checking your phone in the movie theatre, taking selfies at the gym (with other people unknowingly in the background), or texting while at a restaurant - the server (and our date) deserve our full attention. Another inappropriate, and downright dangerous, place for tech is while driving! Our text messages can wait until we’ve arrived safely at our destination.
Be present: it can be a challenge to juggle our constant connection with tech and our interactions with others. As challenging as it may be to avoid distraction, face-to-face conversations require our full attention. Turn your phone facedown or remove on-screen notifications altogether so you can stay focused on the conversation at hand. Avoid answering your phone/texts mid-conversation, but if you must, politely excuse yourself and return to the conversation when you can be present and in the moment. This is important for parents with young kids to note as well - being present and watching your child play on the jungle gym vs. scrolling through social media sends an important message to your child and also models good behaviour for them with respect to digital etiquette. Without being present, the message we send is that the device in our hand is more important than the company we keep in the moment.
Don’t bombard: when sending texts or instant messages, try to send one cohesive message vs. sending multiple texts, stringing your thoughts together bit by bit. We should keep in mind that not everyone is constantly connected to their devices (which is a good thing!). If you don’t get a response to a text within 5 minutes, don't follow up immediately with a DM, phone call, email and knock on their door. Give the person time to reply to your first inquiry. This is true especially in a professional setting where it is common courtesy to ask if your colleague is available and if now is a good time to chat before you continue. Catching someone at a bad time, and essentially forcing them into a conversation with multiple notifications and a sense of false urgency can lead to an unproductive conversation. Also, depending on the topic of conversation, keep in mind that an email (or even an old-fashioned phone call) is often a better fit.
Consider ‘how and when’ in your response: when we consider tech etiquette we should also consider how and when we get around to replying to messages. It may seem impossible to stay on top of it all - juggling texts, email, tags, evites and other notifications, but there are tips to make life easier and manage expectations.
- Be intentional when you pick up your device and read through your messages. Reading through texts and email (especially on our phone) blindly can often leave us to forget to reply altogether. If you’re posting on social media but haven’t yet replied to a text or baby shower evite, you may be sending a careless message.
- Be accountable. Avoid RSVPing “yes” and accepting evites to social events without considering your schedule and availability. Often, the party planner is counting on accurate numbers for planning purposes, and hastily responding ‘yes’ can impact others. If you’re not going, say so, and if you had good intentions to go but can no longer make it, try to provide as much notice as possible. Unfortunately, ‘bail culture’ is a real thing in our busy digital lives with many using the convenience of text messaging to cancel plans at a moment’s notice, leaving others hanging.
Think and ask before you snap and post: In the age of the smartphone, cameras are at our fingertips and it’s critical to consider the privacy of other people when taking their picture and posting it online. This is especially true when posting pictures of someone else's child, and it’s good practice to ask for your own child’s permission. Once again, this models good digital citizenship and reinforces the importance of asking for consent. Think first, ask second, and post later.
A major faux pas is posting photos of other people that aren’t flattering or posting photos of people in questionable situations that may jeopardize their reputation. We may think the photo is funny or that “everyone looks good”, but others may not feel the same way. Also, when someone offers their phone so we can approve a photo, we should avoid the temptation of swiping through the entire collection without permission.
Lastly, always consider the social setting or venue when taking and sharing photos. Just because our phone is capable of taking pictures doesn’t always mean it's appropriate to do so. Some examples might be at a wedding, a memorial or a religious space. Also, think twice before posting pictures of car accidents or similar tragedies on social media. Those who aren’t directly affected may appreciate the heads up about a traffic delay, but consider the impact that your post may have on the individuals or families of those involved.
Keep it positive and know your audience: When posting anything on social media - but especially regarding issues that we hold near and dear to our hearts like race, religion and politics - we should always post with our eyes wide open knowing that others may not agree. If there is a clash of opinion, we should strive to keep comments clean and positive.
Spreading fake news, conspiracy theories or negativity pollute our online communities and are often viewed as a misstep in terms of tech etiquette. Airing dirty laundry is also a major social blunder. Our personal relationships and any resulting confrontation should be left out of social media feeds altogether.
Remember that short language, slang, emojis and memes are fitting in friendly conversation, but are still unacceptable in most professional settings despite our common use of them.
Keep rings and dings to a minimum: the sound of our keypad, incoming text messages and loud ring tones are all no-no’s when it comes to modern tech etiquette. Unless an individual leverages these sounds to assist with accessibility, the audible notifications coming out of our devices should be limited. This is especially true in a professional setting or other public situation where these sounds interfere with the setting, like at church or at a restaurant. Set your device to pulse and vibrate notifications only.
Remember that a lot of this is still new - as technology and our digital world evolves, we’re coming up with new social rules, expectations and etiquette every day. In the meantime, consider these guidelines to help you keep your digital etiquette in check, take cues from the situation around you, and most importantly, strive to keep our digital spaces positive, while finding balance in our digital world.