Reflection: Netiquette

Posted on: 30/08/2011

A month or so ago, I made the mistake of criticising a fellow student by group email.  Even though I had tried to be positive, constructive, funny and encouraging, it wasn’t received that way.  The replies from the person concerned were really unpleasant and had the opposite effect from what I was trying to achieve.

Now, this post is not about the other person. It’s about what I could have done to avoid receiving a barrage of unpleasantness. We did kiss and make up, by the way, but when I saw this article on Freshly Pressed today, it reminded me how easily misconstrued things can get.  I don’t just have to watch my language, I have to check the tiniest of nuances.

Julia from Measure of Doubt, who wrote the article, makes several relevant points.  One of the things she mentions is to depersonalise.  Don’t start a criticism with the word ‘you’re…’. Whoops.

Also, something she didn’t mention, I criticised on a minor issue -the straw that broke the camel’s back, or should I say the one-line email that snapped the student’s patience – rather than a significant one.  So then it seemed like my argument was out of proportion. Why am I making a fuss about a throwaway comment?  Whoops again.

Communicating via the internet seems to easily trigger our emotional side, Julia tells us. “The internet is full of emotional tripwires.”  What a great expression! And how true in my case.

What have I learned from this experience?

Quite simply, never, NEVER to reply to an email that narks me without giving myself time to de-stress about it.  Even if I am criticising positively, I must acknowledge that there will be tripwires I just can’t see.

Better still, save the criticism till I’m face to face. And if I don’t have that option because I don’t know the person well enough? Then it’s probably not worth it…


2 Responses to "Reflection: Netiquette"

We’ve all been caught out like that; the problem with the internet is that you can’t read nuance so it’s easy to be misunderstood.

You give yourself good advice – never write while upset 🙂

Thanks! I hope I manage to take my own advice…

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