Written by Annika Wong
Impacts of Covid-19 on Digital Etiquette
Around the world, students and professionals have been faced with the challenge of finding new ways to effectively and efficiently communicate. Covid-19 has forced us to become more technologically literate and computer savvy, with little time to prepare. Inevitably, with this new obstacle, comes the requirement for a greater understanding of appropriate behaviour online. We all know the expectations for how to act within a physical academic or professional environment, but the rules in a digital space can be a bit ambiguous, with no collectively defined rules.
What is Digital Etiquette?
Digital etiquette, also known as “netiquette,” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “etiquette governing communication on the internet.” The term is more important than ever, as many continue to complete work and school from home, virtually. Although many students have grown up with technology, not all have been taught how to present themselves through virtual communication, including on social media platforms. It is important to remember that your digital footprint follows you everywhere, so being thoughtful with what you post online is crucial - especially as more hiring managers are basing hiring decisions on candidates’ online presence. According to Lauren Salm (2018) in a survey done by CareerBuilder, it was found that approximately 70% of hiring managers check candidates’ social media presence prior to making hiring decisions. Despite inappropriate content being a major factor in deciding not to hire someone, they also noted that it is equally important to have some sort of presence online so they can verify credentials, or look at your previous work (Salm, 2018).
Digital Etiquette and Communication Challenges
Due to the communication challenges presented as a result of Covid-19 and the increased usage of online platforms, the struggle to define digital etiquette across a variety of internet encounters is difficult. This can pose a threat to new anxieties that come from being unable to accurately (and literally) read a digital situation. One of the hardest-hit groups in this regard are people under 35. In a study on digital etiquette and the impact of Covid-19 conducted by Adapaivist (2020), researchers found that of the 2800 people who took part in the study, 27% of those under the age of 35, and 27% of those between the ages of 35-44 have had to apologize to someone for a way in which they communicated digitally. 1064 people in the study worry at least once during the day about how they are communicating in professional online settings.
According to the results of the study, many younger people are anxious due to the ambiguity of digital communication, as social cues are harder to identify.
Finding and adapting to new online norms will continue to be an issue for many, as everyone can have a different idea about how best to communicate online. Amongst these undefined rules and worry, it is also extremely important to address the mental health aspect of digital etiquette. Not only is digital etiquette about being respectful to others online, and presenting yourself professionally, it is also about maintaining your mental health by detaching from the constant pressures of being online. To have proper digital etiquette also means that you aren’t spending an excessive amount of time online, and treating your mental health as a priority. Although virtual communication anxiety can be a result of unknown expectations, we all must remember to be kind to each other and recognize that all of us have been taught to digitally interact in different ways.
Tips to Ensure Proper Digital Etiquette
Re-read your posts → don’t post anything you may regret in the future. Remember, you have and always will have a digital footprint!
Post what you are proud of → show off your accomplishments (in a professional way).
Google yourself → employers generally use the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing). Search your name and see what comes up - if you don’t like what you see, try to fix it.
Know your audience → would you email your professors the same way you text your friends?
Take a break from digital media → remember that your mental health is part of being digitally responsible.
Salm, L. (2018, June 15). 70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles. CareerBuilder. https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/social-media-survey-2017
Adaptavist. (2020, May). Digital Etiquette Study. Adaptavist. https://static.adaptavistassets.com/downloads/Digital-Etiquette/Digital-Etiquette-Report.pdf