R U 2 Rude 2 B Online?

Artwork by Tom Garrett

Chances are, you text your friends more than you talk to them—and with every exchange, good manners count. We’re not talking about typing with your pinkie raised or ending every message with sincerely yours. We’re talking about the small but significant digital decisions you make every day, every hour—OK, every minute—that add up to your netiquette IQ. The origin of the word etiquette is French, and it originally meant “little signs,” which got us wondering if you know what “little signs” you’re sending out via social media 24/7. To find out, we gathered a panel of experts to weigh in on sticky subjects that reveal the kind of person you are online and IRL.

Place a check in the box that you agree with!

#1. Should you use your phone at the table when eating out with friends?

 _____Yes ____No ____ It depends

Experts say: No, with an exception

Yes, we’re all guilty of whipping out our phones at inappropriate moments, but we can all admit that when you text in the middle of lunch, the message you’re sending to your friends at the table is that they’re less important than whoever’s messaging you. So ban texts or calls when you go out to eat. The only exception? Calls from Mom and Dad. Give your folks their own custom ringtone so you’ll know when they are trying to get in touch. Our etiquette expert Steven Petrow suggests piling everyone’s phones in the center of the table facedown. Whoever reaches for their phone first has to leave the tip or spring for dessert.

The bottom line: Peer pressure (and fear of losing money) will help you to stay phone-free.

#2. Should you use an emoticon or abreves in an e-mail to your teacher?

___Never ___Maybe ___Totes!

Experts say: No Way!

Sure, your teachers will get what you are trying to say, but even when you’re not in school, take the time to communicate your thoughts clearly, using correct spelling and grammar. Proof your texts or e-mails to avoid embarrassing autocorrect mishaps. As for emoticons, our panel agrees that you look immature if you use them in place of actual words.

The bottom line: Your words, even via e-mail, should be grade-A perfect.

#3. Is it ever OK to not accept a Facebook friend request?

___Of course ___Maybe ___Never

Experts say: Yes

Our panel was unanimous: It’s perfectly fine to ignore distant-friend requests and downright smart to ignore requests from people you have never met. In fact, Daniel Post Senning points out that Facebook changed the status from “ignore” to “not now” because “ignore” sounds rude. It’s trickier when you receive a request from someone you know but aren’t actually friends with. If you think feelings could be hurt, then err on the side of kindness. As for someone you’ve never met in real life: Never accept. Stranger-danger is just as real in the digital world as it is in real life.

The bottom line: It’s not rude to be choosy.

#4. Should you post an Instagram from a party you know some friends weren’t invited to?

___Never ___It depends ___Sure

Experts say: It’s tricky!

Our experts were split on this. Andrea Bartz and Petrow said no, it’s too mean: Post Senning and Jane Buckingham, however, thought it was OK. “It gives your friend time to react in private and deal with the situation,” says Buckingham. Ask yourself if you would rather be upset about it in your own bedroom or have to excuse yourself to the bathroom at school.

The bottom line: Be sensitive about what you post.

#5. Should you tag friends in Facebook photos without asking first?

___Always ___Occasionally ___Nope

Experts say: Sometimes

Most photos are innocent, and friends probably expect you to post them. “They can always untag,” says Bartz. But if the pic is at all questionable—think bikinis, naughty hand gestures—don’t do it.

The bottom line: If you wouldn’t want parents, teachers, or potential employers to see it, don’t post.

#6. Do or don’t: Break up with your BF/GF via text or chat.

___Never ___Maybe ___Always

Experts say: Don’t (in a landslide)!

You need to have face-to-face conversations when dealing with emotional issues like ending a relationship. Owning up to your feelings in person is hard, but it’s actually cruel and cowardly to hide behind an electronic device. Also, texts are for convenience, and it’s not supposed to be easy to break up with someone. Looking someone in the eye forces you to really empathize with that person’s feelings.

The bottom line: It’s fine to send a “We need to talk” text, but do the tough stuff in person.

#7. Should you ever forward a text or e-mail from someone?

___Yes ___Maybe ___Not a chance

Experts say: No

It seems harmless, but eventually you’re going to forward something that has a potentially hurtful or embarrassing comment—and you never know who that person might forward it to.

The bottom line: Protect yourself and your friendships by keeping your correspondence private.


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