“Is Virtual Etiquette Different from Real World Etiquette?”

I am quoting Rebecca Justice, an expert on virtual teams who presents a real scenario to illuminate that question. You can find it on her Leading Virtually blog, at http://www.leadingvirtually.com/?p=188. Anyone have a different answer?

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Sandy Ressler

I think Rebecca is missing the much of the point of netiquette versus real world etiquette. They are very different. Each medium, email/twitter/secondlife/blogs/chats and so on have different levels of communication and each different expectations for politeness and behavior. It is perfectly reasonable in an instant msg for someone to quickly ask a question, get my response and move on without any extraneous chit chat. In SecondLife the environment is really just like a chat and no extra chit chat is needed but since the whole environment is attempting to simulate real life more closely a departing “thanks and good bye” would seem to be more reasonable but either way is fine. I think one’s expectations are more a function of experience then anything else. However for ALL of these media they are just NOT the equivalent of the real world and I would certainly not expect real world etiquette in them. In fact I would tend to be more annoyed at extraneous chit chat, that sort of defeats some of the advantages of many of the electronic media.

Kitty Wooley

Hm. Sandy, I relate to your answer because I can be rather impatient at times. But what if one is trying to build community long-distance, and chit-chat is a component of the “glue” that’s enabling a sense of community?

Denise Hill

Well to add a different thought stream, I think virtual and real world etiquette are similar. The expectation for polite, respectful behavior is the norm as well as operating within the ‘operating norm’. Now the expectations for polite may be sans the chit in the virtual world.

Andre Goodfriend

A very thought provoking question. Thank’s Kitty for raising it. Perhaps the term “etiquette” is misleading, because it brings to mind a rulebook approach of the things that should always be done when interacting in polite society. I agree with the gist of Sandy’s and Tom’s comments that etiquette will vary from situation to situation. I also agree Denise that the virtual and the real world are similar in that ultimately we are interacting with real people in both worlds. Avatars are not just cartoon characters, despite their appearance, and as Rebecca Justice’s piece indicates, these real people may expect to be treated as if this were a genuine social interaction.

Looking at the “real world” our etiquette will vary from situation to situation. Speed dating (I assume) has different etiquette than evening out on a blind date even though it will be the first time that one has met the “date”. Etiquette during a newspaper interview will be different than at a press conference.

What etiquette often does is help us elicit feedback to understand the nature of the social interaction and build a better communication channel. That is to say that, if we don’t know someone, using common greetings will help us establish a rapport and determine how to communicate in a way that we are understood. If they don’t respond the way we would have expected to our greetings, we generally alter our approach until we actually communicate. Assumedly, when using Twitter, the rapport has already been established during the subscription process and it’s understood that the purpose of this medium is short messages stripped of rapport building.

Etiquette at the end of the interaction helps maintain a relationship and build a reputation that could help establish a relationship with others. If Rebecca were to be stopped again by the same avatar, would her reaction be less forthcoming now because of the bad taste left by the previous interaction? Might others who have heard about this episode whisper in this avatars ear that a “thank you” would be appreciated?

While etiquette may vary, rapport building is often essential before real communication can begin.

AJ Malik

Human beings are “visual” animals. In the real world, humans (and many animals) engage in body language for effective non-verbal communication. In the virtual world, however, there is no body language nor non-verbal communication – we are left to more direct, less personal ways of interacting with one another (as high tech as they may be). Therefore the model for virtual etiquette, in my opinion, should be one of more politeness, mutual respect, inclusiveness, and courtesy, even more so than perhaps real world etiquette.

Allen Sheaprd

Of, etiquette, documentaion, social glue and wisdom.

I do belive ther needs to be etiquette and it is practiced even amoungst friends. Greatings to say HI, Dear or Good morning v.s. “Give me the report you promised yesterday”
When to and not to blind copy people.
How to introduce oneself – “I got your email off a joke list forwarded five times from a friend of yours” or “since your neighbor copied both of us on the email I wanted to say Hi and get to know you.

Then there is documentation such as when five people are on the eMail and somone types “I asked them about the report” Well who is him/her? So often messages go out “in the day’s context” only to be confusing the next day. OMG! (Office of Management and Government) – what does that acronym mean? IIJM? ROTFL for TEOTWAWKI! (TEOTWAWKI – seen on many pandemic boards but said seriously)

Social glue: emoticons. Andre here body language is simulated with a smily 😉 This seems to crop up out of nescessity not convention or social moreas.

Lastly a word to the wise : think twice – send once. Words of anger and some jokes should not be put in emails that can come up in court. While a lawyer can not pull last nights words out of the air the video tape of the President bowling joke on Jay Leno will come up again and again. Nothing mean or spiteful was meant. Obama is just the president.

KItty I have strayed way past your origional outline and hope it is ok.

Kitty Wooley

Actually, I think each of these responses is wonderful for a different reason, and this stream is very rich and constructive. Clearly, you’ve all reflected on this in the years that you’ve been online. Tom, your point about sending the friend request made me smile, because I tend to push the envelope, myself, and that’s one way to find out how open to connecting the other party is. Thank you all so much!