Public Interest Courtesy Rule #7

keyboard.jpgModern times call for modern communication devices and methods. However politeness and courtesy should still dictate communication practices when we contact other people electronically. Unwanted attention in whatever form is still that, unwanted.

While the indirect nature of the internet may make it seem reasonable to make inappropriate suggestions to anyone and everyone, please remember that other people use electronic media for legitimate reasons, whether that is to conduct business or simply to have real conversations with people from all over the world. So just because you have the ability to contact people with any random request in an online environment, this does not necessarily mean that you should.

A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you would approach people and say the same things to the person if you met them under normal circumstances in ‘real’ life? Chances are you wouldn’t, and if you would then you would soon find out that such behaviour is not socially acceptable. Remember at all times that the people you are ‘talking’ to online exist as real people in the real world and so socially appropriate behaviour and language still apply.

Take for instance the wonderful world of instant messaging. While instant messaging allows easy collaboration and lets people know when others are available, it is important to remember that other people may not have the same interests as you. The open nature of this communication method is an area which has caused some people to feel that normal social behaviour does not apply. Take for instance the experience of Tisha.

Please refer to the following guidelines relating to appropriate etiquette for instant messaging communications:

  1. Refer to the profile or ‘about me’ information of the person you are hoping to contact. This should give you a good indication of whether your interests and their interests will align. If someone states that they are using instant messaging facilities for business purposes, it is highly likely that they will not be interested in your suggestion to have them dance naked around the room or partake in lewd conversations.
  2. When contacting another person make sure you have something meaningful to share and that you are not using the online world as a substitute for real life relationship building activities. Making an inappropriate request of someone who doesn’t know you is probably not the best way to make an impression.
  3. If it appears that your interests are similar, inquire firstly with the other party whether they are available, introducing yourself and your purpose in contacting them. At this stage it is important to remember politeness is important and lewd behaviour will not be tolerated.
  4. If the other person is not available or declines your discussion please respect their decision and leave them alone.
  5. Instant messages are not replacements for real person-to-person conversations. They should not be used to initiate an intimate relationship or proposition people inappropriately. This would be considered a rather cowardly approach and thought of as being ‘poor form’.
  6. It is always important to consider cultural differences when sending online messages. Behaviour that you consider to be acceptable may not be appropriate to someone else. Always consider what you are saying to the other person before you say it and think about how this may be interpreted by another person. If there is any doubt, don’t send the message.
  7. The instant messaging world is not the place to get too personal too quickly. While personal questions about relationship status and work history may be appropriate in normal conversations, online people are likely to be unreceptive to revealing this type of information to someone they don’t know.

Men and women alike should be able to communicate openly in the virtual world without having to put up with unwanted and unnecessary interruptions from people who should know better. If you are someone who interrupts people in this way please cease and desist at once for the sake of all normal people in the real and the virtual world. For those who are the recipients of such unwanted attention all that can be said is to ignore these messages as best you can and try not to let it ruin the opportunities provided by online communications.


  1. tisha

    Oh Tracey, my HERO! I am floored by your exquisite writing and I can’t thank you enough for your appropriate and sage advice!

    As you rightly stated: “A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you would approach people and say the same things to the person if you met them under normal circumstances in ‘real’ life? Chances are you wouldn’t, and if you would then you would soon find out that such behaviour is not socially acceptable.”

    Indeed the Internet provides us certain anonymity and abusing free access to other users and their information creates and leads to an unpleasant atmosphere and experiences in cyberspace.

    I genuinely thank you for devoting your time and energy to resolving my quandary and I hope that cybernauts across the world wide web will take heed to your words.

    In appreciation

  2. Tracey

    Hi Tisha – I’m so glad you’re happy with the end result. I hope at the very least that we’ve given people some ‘food for thought’. I was really glad to write a focussed Public Interest Courtesy Rule…before it was kind of just whatever struck me at the time…so thanks for the experience. It has simply been my pleasure. Cheers.

  3. El Charolastra

    good luck with that.
    the ratio of idjits to non-idjits is overwhelming.

  4. Tracey

    Hi El Charolastra – Yes I think you may be right there. We just have to hope that one day normal people will win out!! 8)

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