A Question of Netiquette


Last week, a friend of mine posted a link to this post of mine about breastfeeding in public on his Facebook feed, in support of women feeding their children.  Someone posted on his feed that they found breastfeeding in public offensive.  Today’s post, however, is not about her particular view, despite the fact that I heartily disagreed with what she was saying.  This post is about the manner in which people put their point of view on the internet.

I don’t know what it is about the internet that makes some people think they don’t have to watch what they are saying, as they would if they were speaking to someone’s face. Clearly, some people hide behind the screen and say things they would not be brave enough to say to someone’s face (I don’t think that was the case with the woman I wrote about above though).  Some seem to forget that their messages are being read by real people, with real feelings.

Personally, I think you should only write something you would be prepared to say in person, and something you are prepared to stand by.  It’s cowardly to use the internet as a tool to put forward a point of view you do not have the courage to voice in person; more so if what you are saying is spiteful or abusive.

I don’t want to go into what was said; this is about the manner in which it was said.  Typing the words “No offence but ….” before your opinion seems to guarantee that what follows will be offensive, just as the words “I’m not racist but …” seems to always be followed  by some racist claptrap.  Incidentally, writing the words “no offence but …” before your opinion does not magically mean that what you have to say is no longer offensive.

I, perhaps niaively, assumed everyone knew this, but it seems I was wrong.  The person in question used the words “no offence but …” and then went on to post three incredibly offensive posts to the conversation about breastfeeding in public. It seems everyone reading them found them offensive.  The author of these comments was outraged by this turn of events however, and in her final post said “I said no offence, but some people are just to cause trouble..” – seemingly it was the fault of the reader that they were offended by her words – her use of the phrase “no offence” really was intended to remove the offence from her words.

In addition to this, each of the offensive messages was ended with “xxx”.  Why do people do this?  I see it all over the internet – people writing highly critical, angry, offensive or inflammatory messages and following them with kisses as if tht takes the sting out of their message.  It doesn’t.

This particular incident ended with the person in question unfriending my friend (who had not had the opportunity to answer any of the posts), with a public, angry message about people taking offence, ending with kisses.

I’d love to know other people’s take on this – not on this particular incident, but on internet “manners” in general.  Does a smily face obliterate offence?  Is it asking too much to expect people to treat others as human when they intetact online?  I didn’t expect to be asking these questions so long after the integration on the internet into people’s lives.  I suppose I thought these would be problems we would encounter when people first adjusted to life online, but maybe the problems only get worse as people become more confident with online interaction and forget about the people on the other end of their messages.

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2 comments on “A Question of Netiquette

  1. I do get the feeling that people don’t see the internet as for real and have no notion of netiquette. Would also add that people type and press send and ooooops it’s done and read by someone and it’s too late.

  2. I know exactly what you are referring to when you write about people not being careful what they write or link to on the internet. The proper term for internet manners is netiquette. The phenomenon you are referring to is something I call the digital disconnect, where people feel they are anonymous, saying and doing things that they would not do or say in reality. As people become more aware of proper netiquette and it is taught in schools this will change.

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