Manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life…. Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. – Emily Post, Etiquette. 1922. Chap. I
Why can I paint a room crimson red on a whim, but I find it impossible to decide how/if/why I should watermark the photos I post online?
Why do I sometimes hesitate before publishing a post or leaving a comment – concerns different from any I’ve ever known in over a decade as a working writer, both online and in print?
If Emily Post could see the whirl of social media, I’m quite certain she would agree that this place should come with some sort of an instruction manual. Nothing fancy, but a few guidelines to help make sense of this tangled web.
“Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners,” wrote Post ninety years ago.
Ah, ethics and manners. In a right-click and save, cut and paste world, such things can be, well, muddled. Or ignored entirely.
Let’s make some rules. And, perhaps, pull a Strunk* and break a few.
With a bit more netiquette, perhaps we’ll post with less frustration and more peace of mind.
I’d like there to come a time when someone is found using someone else’s content – be it on a blog you know or an advertisement on a grocery truck in the Czech Republic – and not be able to say, “I didn’t know that was wrong.” We all know it’s wrong, but there aren’t enough of us saying that such behavior is unacceptable.
Your photos, your words – whatever content you create and place online – it’s yours.
And I’m not referring to bloggers – this is for each and every one of us who use social media.
As If Emily Posted progresses may not all see eye to eye on all social media graces, and I welcome discussions and discourse. That said, there are certain fundamentals I believe in. Consider them the trinity at the foundation of IEP. The big three when it comes to blogging, tweeting, Instagramming and all the various ways we spend our connected lives:
Attribution isn’t a considerate thing to do – it’s essential.
If you source content from anyone, anywhere, always give credit where it is due.
Respect the privacy of others.
You may not care if people know where you live, work or dine, but don’t assume anyone else feels that way. Err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing other people’s business.
Respect your own privacy, too.
Social media is the antithesis of Vegas. Whatever happens online, well, it sorts of goes…everywhere. Like glitter. So, be mindful of what you say. But please, if you believe in something, do say it. This is not about censorship. I am grateful for all the wonderful voices I encounter online. That glitter sparkles beautifully most of the time.
I love social media. I want to believe that the leveling of the playing field will mean the discovery of great talent and wonderful opportunities for many. I just hope that the collateral damage is minimal. Too often content is taken without permission simply because it’s so easy. Easy doesn’t make it right. Value the work you do and the work of others.
And now for a bit of irony: Real Simple magazine is has dubbed this week, January 9-13, “Be Nice On The Internet Week.” Why just one week?
Only connect, indeed. xo a.
*This is not a guide to grammar in social media. But if you do have questions on the subject, I’ll try to answer any you have. Also, The Elements of Style is out of date and not the guide I’d recommend. I do like the S+W philosophy, and the beautiful red linen-bound version with Maira Kalman drawings.