Netizens and the Netiquette | Dr. Melinda dP. Bandalaria

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Netizens and the Netiquette
Dr. Melinda dP. Bandelaria

Are you a netizen? If someone sent you an email with the text in all capital letters, how would you react?

Good day everyone! Today, I will be discussing two concepts which may already be familiar to you: Netizen and Netiquette.

The root word “-net”, gives us an idea that our discussion will focus on the Internet, the people who are in it, and the socially accepted behaviors for the people who inhabit the Internet or the cyberspace.

Netizen is a slang term derived from the combination of the words Internet and citizen and used to describe an individual who spends a lot of time on the net. The term can describe most of us who use the Internet in the various aspects of our lives.

In many cases, our fellow citizens in the physical world or space are also our fellow netizens in the cyberspace. This is not surprising given the following statistics:

As of 1 July 2016, there are about 44.5 million Internet users in the Philippines out of more than 102 million total population of the country, or a 43.5 % penetration rate. This accounts for 1.3% share in the world total of more than 3.4 billion Internet users. In fact, the cyberspace or the virtual world is now regarded as the 5th domain after air, sea, land, and space. Hence, it is also usual to hear now of cyber war.

Being netizens enable us to be beyond our physical self. Our virtual self enables us to be active members of online communities of interest and practice, and connect with fellow netizens real-time wherever they are in the world. As netizens, we access and use resources that are available in the web. We reshare them to our fellow netizens, and in some cases we create or develop these resources and share them to fellow netizens. As it is, as netizens, we have become publishers ourselves, provided with space for our voices to be heard. Such empowerment, however, should be exercised with responsibility and caution. Imagine, if all the more than 3.4 billion netizens of cyberspace would exercise the sense of empowerment without any guidelines, it would be a chaotic world out there. And probably, many of us would hesitate venturing into the cyberspace and would only go there if and when necessary. As it is now, many of us enjoy the cyberlife. In fact, many prefer spending time there than in their physical world. This orderliness in the cyberlife was brought about by the agreed upon social conventions in the cyberspace or what is known as netiquette.

There are many resources which can be found in the Internet with regard netiquette. Some are very detailed. Some just discuss the basic principles but they are in agreement in many items.

This presentation is an attempt to summarize the important netiquettes into a mnemonic device which we’ll call GOOD CONDUCT. Hopefully, this would enable us to remember what these netiquettes are every time we are in the cyberspace.

So here goes…

G is for Good citizenship in the cyberspace and knowing where exactly where you are in the cyberspace. Netiquette varies from domain to domain. When you enter a domain of cyberspace that’s new to you, take a look around, spend a while listening to the chat or reading the archives. Get a sense of how the people, who are already there, act, then go ahead and participate. So now, we have domains for government agencies or educational institutions and other organizations.

O is for other people’s time and bandwidth, which should be respected by avoiding long post which can waste others’ time, who may want or are interested to read it. In the case of bandwidth, there is a limit to what a connection can carry. So avoid multiple postings, sending heavy files—which may take forever to download—and sending email to multiple recipients when you need just one person to reply to you.

O— This O refers to Online mode and that you should adhere to the same standards of behavior Just like when you are in the offline mode. This means that although we can be anonymous online, we still need to be ethical and follow social conventions by writing well.

D— Don’t abuse power. Some people in the cyberspace have more power than others. For instance, system administrators are more knowledgeable than a common Internet user. This however, does not give these more powerful individuals the right to take advantage of others. For instance, [system administrators] should not read private emails, which also implies respect to other people’s privacy.

C is for Cybercrime law, or here in the Philippines, it is R.A 10175. The R.A carries various provisions like computer related forgery, cyber bullying, cyber sex, plagiarism, etc.

It is important that we be familiar with all the provisions of the law, so we can be guided on how we will behave when in the cyberspace.

O is for Other People’s mistake which should be treated with kindness, especially if it is just a minor one. It could be that the person is not aware of the conventions in the cyberspace. Even if you feel strongly about the mistake, think twice before reacting and if you feel the need to inform the other person do it politely, like in a private email or message instead of posting it in a social forum for the public to see.

N should remind us, Never to use all caps at all, if possible. Online, all caps is considered shouting. So unless you are really angry, avoid using all caps in online messaging.

D is for Don’t forget the human. Remember the almost 3.5 billion netizens who are potential readers of what you post online. Remember that while all you see is a computer screen you are communicating with a human being when sending email or replying to discussion posts and all you have are words to relay your message or what you have in mind. Devoid of the nonverbal cues, it is so easy to misinterpret messages. Probably, a good rule of thumb is to imagine how you would feel if you are at the receiving end of your email or post.

U—Use appropriate grammar and language. In discussions, be sure to use proper spelling, capitalization, and usage. In short, avoid using text or SMS language.

C is for Chain letters. We should avoid sending chain letters. Remember that we should respect other people’s time and bandwidth. And they can make use of their time better instead of reading the chain letters that we sent.

T can stand for True self or Truthfulness. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Again, it is so easy to assume a different persona online but respect to fellow netizens also require that we present our true self when in cyberspace.

So practice GOOD CONDUCT. Be a good netizen. Make the cyberspace a pleasant place to spend our time and our cyber life a peaceful one.

Thank you and good day.

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