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Birjees S. Hussain: Rules of surfing the net
June 22, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

There is etiquette in everything we do and most of us have experienced them at some stage of our lives. For instance, when we participate in a formal dinner we need to know when to wear what; we need to know which cutlery to use for which course and when to let the waiter know we have finished our meal.

We’ve also experienced such requirements for etiquette when we visit an official at a UAE government office; for instance, we’ve all been offered coffee but have erroneously declined not realising that we might have offended our host. We, therefore, need to be aware of the etiquette surrounding accepting or declining beverages; there is even etiquette for when to accept or decline a second cup; a simple gesture with the cup means ‘no, thank you’.

Etiquette also applies when we visit any office in general around the Emirates. We should know when to shake hands and with whom, and of course when not to. And when we’re out sightseeing we should know when it’s not OK to take photographs in public; we should know which sights should not be filmed and that photographing ladies is not acceptable. Rules and etiquette are clearly different from one country to the next. What is acceptable in one nation may be considered offensive in another. Therefore, it depends upon where you are.

However, the story is a little different when it comes to the virtual world. Boundaries do not matter. In fact, perhaps we can go so far as to say that there appear to be no boundaries at all. However, notwithstanding no boundaries, the rules of etiquette do not go away when we are in the virtual world. The only difference is that a different set of rules apply when roaming the electronic world or using the new-fangled social media.

Now we have etiquette for emails, social networking and for forums.

Emails for etiquette are already common knowledge. For example, using capital letters in emails is the equivalent of shouting. Not doing a spellcheck can change the meaning of a misspelled word into something else. Attaching large files at the wrong time of day can irritate people if they take an inordinately long time to download at 5pm.

Replying to all in an email can also be problematic so doing so should depend upon the nature of the email and its tone. If you are going to have a firm word with someone, it’s best to do it privately and not so that the world and his wife can see it. And ignoring a request for a response to an email is akin to telling someone you will not.

Social networking sites have their own etiquette and rules. For example, none of them appreciate fake profiles being set up but we all know many are. Also, members shouldn’t go about sending friends’ requests to everyone, even to complete strangers, but we know many do. And sharing every minute of your life online can be very annoying to your ‘friends’, for example ‘I am going to bed now’, but many do that too.

Etiquette also applies to forums. Forums are pages on a website that are dedicated to a specific concern, issue or subject matter, usually set up by users to solve an issue. For example, if someone needs a solution to a specific problem with their laptop, they might go on to a website and participate in a conversation that is running on that subject matter. The participant can log on, post a question or answer a running question. The etiquette includes not posting without first saying hello and introducing yourself, not posting the same comments or questions more than once and restarting an old thread, i.e. a line of conversation about a topic that has been closed.

Aside from following certain rules and etiquette people should also exercise some common sense. The latter is clearly not being exercised by many as is evidenced by the numerous posts to which we are all privy. Some of these ‘friends’ posts can border on stupidity and many raise more concerns than answers.

For example, why do people on social networking sites announce they are going on holiday? They might as well send out an open invitation to every would-be burglar telling them that the house is going to be empty so come and rob us.

Also, why do people post stupid pictures of themselves on their home pages for all to see? I know they’re having a laugh with their friends and family but they tend to forget that sometimes these pictures can be seen by their boss, their future boss, their parents, their subordinates or anyone else they would not want seeing them.

The face of recruitment has changed dramatically in the past five years. Whereas before employers only had a CV, the interview and references on which to base their selection process, many employers will now go straight to a variety of social networking sites and search for the applicant in an effort to see what they’re really like and what they really think. It’s important to note that many people have either not got the jobs they wanted or lost their job as a result of something they posted on a website or forum.
The author specialises in subjects from health to social issues

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