Online Etiquette?

The internet and by extension social media are changing the way we interact. This fact is obvious, especially among University students and ‘early adopters’ of the latest social media trends including 4Square, Twitter, and of course Facebook. But by the virtue of the fact that it changes the way we interact, it also changes the way we act, and the expectations about what behavior is appropriate. Since much of the internet, is as of yet, unregulated, the precedent and common practice that often inform the parameters of what is acceptable behavior continues to evolve.

The fact that any social norms and practices exist at all stands is in direct contrast to the degree of anonymity which the internet provides. Yet surprisingly virtual social protocols of behaviour (the creation of virtual stare decisis if you will) are followed more frequently than one might expect. The online quid pro quo that following the rules will make the online experience more enjoyable is surprisingly effective.

The evolution of social media – the merging of our real lives with our virtual online persona’s – has made our online interaction even more personal, and therefore has increased the expectation that people conduct themselves in certain ways.  But what ways? The internet is constantly changing, and what we are supposed to do, or should do is not always clear.

I bring this up because of recent experience: sharing photo’s on Facebook. My roommate recently lost copies of many of her favorite photos. Photo’s she had access to only by virtue of the fact that she was linked to these photo’s through the tagging feature. They all belonged to a friend who made a decision to delete all of her albums, and consequently all of the pictures that as a result of the tagging were also dropped into an album of photos of her.

Of course, technically no wrong doing was committed. The photo’s belonged to the original poster, and as the owner, they have complete right to delete the albums. But, in many ways the posting, and more specifically the tagging of these photo’s turned them into a something that is also to a degree owned by the individuals in the pictures.

This reality that photo’s of you and your friends are easily accessible by you, no matter who owns them has changed our behavior and expectations about whether or when to take photos, and keep albums, either electronic or real. My roommate commented to me that she specifically did not take her camera to some places or events because she knew others that would, and relied on the fact that they would post and tag the event.

So what is the answer? What is the correct etiquette to deleting pages or albums online that through the interconnected community that occurs online become more than simply the property of the individual owner or poster?

My solution would be that people tagged in a video, are also by virtue of this fact granted the right to keep that photo as part of their personal “Picture of ..: album”, that cannot be deleted. Let me know if you have a better solution. In the mean time, maybe the solution is to back up all your photo’s with something like “facedown”


Pragmatist, Student, Humanitarian, Rights Advocate, Runner, Reader, Brother, Sleeper

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Posted in Life

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