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The importance of social media etiquette

I have of late been under siege with people adding me on WhatsApp groups which I sadly had to exit as quickly as I discovered it to protect my privacy and the right to choose. This has also happened on Facebook where you find someone has tagged you on a comment or picture without first establishing if you want to be tagged on the picture.

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Once in a while, I have been shocked to find content that I would not want my mother, being at the top level of respectable human beings in my life, never mind all others, to read. She is of course not on Facebook but she has always been my yardstick in measuring what I can post or what can be seen on my Facebook page. If it is something that she would not be comfortable with, you would not see it on my page. I have since restricted what goes on my timeline and so if I am tagged, it can only be seen on my timeline if I accept the tag. I however would really not like to have it in this order because I feel that it is grossly impolite and people who do that show disrespect to the people that they do it to. It is this discomfort that I have sometimes felt that has motivated this article.

It is my take that before a person adds another person in a WhatsApp group, they should take it upon themselves to first check if the person wants to be in such a group. The group’s objectives and agenda must be fully spelt out.
All must know exactly what the group is about and what it hopes to achieve. Once this is clear to the potential group member, they can then make a decision as to whether they want to be part of the group. Only after having confirmed this with the particular individual can they be added onto the group. It takes away the surprises that can be followed by just an addition that has not been communicated. It saved both the group administrator and the person who has been added the embarrassment of someone leaving the group almost immediately often in disgust causing unnecessary discomfort between the two parties.

The same basic kind of etiquette should be followed on Facebook. I marvel at the numerous friend requests that I get from people that I do not know. Whilst I am not saying that I only want to be friends on Facebook with only those people that I have always known, which would not increase my networks, I still want to know why a person wants me to befriend them through an introductory note to my inbox. This shows that the person who is requesting my friendship respects my space and would want me to make an informed choice. In my own situation, if I want to be friends with somebody who does not know for whatever reason it may be I always give an introductory letter and I state why exactly I feel the person should be my friend and then let them choose if they want to accept my friend request.

Operating in a group also requires that one also is wary about what they post in the groups. It is not good to post jokes on a group that is not initially intended for jokes. Jokes may not only be time consuming and unnecessary, they may even be entirely inappropriate. One would not be wrong to feel patronised to be forced to read jokes that are not necessarily from the people that they feel comfortable to joke with. It creates a certain kind of discomfort and inertia in the group, defeating what could have otherwise been a noble cause.

I have often suggested to a WhatsApp group of my friends from high school that even though we are close, we are probably not as close as we were in high school. A lot has changed over time as we have become adults and we have new interests and new responsibilities. These may alter our previous closeness significantly. It is for this reason that we need to be sensitive as to the jokes that we post in that group so that we retain respect for each other and our friendship.

Failure to observe social media etiquette must however not discount the positive contribution that social media presents to the people in general. It has changed the digital footprint of most people in a positive way.
Till next week, keep reading and remain brand savvy.

Stha Magida is a qualified marketer by profession with experience spanning over 15 years. She writes in her personal capacity and is contactable on

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