10 Basic Netiquette Rules

The rules of etiquette are just as important in the digital world as they are in the real world—and poor netiquette (online etiquette or Internet etiquette) can stick around to haunt you for much longer. Follow these basic rules of netiquette to avoid damaging your online and offline relationships and protect your reputation.


Make Real People a Priority

Young woman looking irritated by her date who is preoccupied with his phone
jhorrocks / Getty Images

Nothing is more irritating than trying to have a conversation with someone who is engrossed in their phone, tablet, or another electronic device. This is especially important if the other person is your date, partner, or child. 

Constantly checking your email, voicemail, or Facebook sends the message that you don't care about them. It can also be annoying and hurtful to be with someone who is having a conversation that you are not part of.

If someone is trying to talk to you when on your cell phone, tablet, or computer, stop what you are doing and look at them. Whatever is happening in the online world can generally wait. 

If you are expecting an important call, email, or text, let the person you are with know upfront and apologize for the interruption.

Continue to make real people a priority while in public places such as restaurants, public transit, stores, elevators, and libraries. You can do this by not having phone conversations when in these shared spaces, as well as by silencing your audible notifications.


Use Respectful Language

Sometimes, Foul Language Occurs in Dementia

Steven Puetzer / Getty Images

Name-calling, cursing, expressing deliberately offensive opinions—if you wouldn't do this to the face of anyone who might conceivably see what you write, don't write it. This goes for social media sites, forums, chat rooms, and email messages. Think it can't be traced back to you? it can.

Using any sort of verbal abuse online can get you banned from your social groups. At a minimum, your remarks will likely be removed; one in three online comments are rejected by page moderators.

Keep in mind that it's not just what you say that may be considered disrespectful, but how you say it. Text in all caps is generally perceived as yelling, for instance. 

Either use the shift key for capital letters or write in all lower case—but don't use caps lock. Don't forget to say please and thank you as appropriate.

Video Meeting Netiquette

When meeting with colleagues online, following a few general guidelines can help keep your interactions professional. Proper etiquette for video meetings include:

  • Checking your device's audio and video before the meeting to ensure that they work
  • Creating a background that is uncluttered so it isn't disruptive, or selecting a background offered by the video meeting platform
  • Choosing a professional screen name (your first and last name is a good option; avoid nicknames or any screen name that could be offensive or unprofessional)
  • Joining the meeting on time
  • Muting yourself when you're not speaking
  • Not talking over other meeting participants

Share With Discretion

woman sexting

Guille Faingold / Stocksy

Don't sext naked pictures or post pictures of alcohol use, drug use, or other information about your private life online. Once these images and statements are uploaded to the Internet, they are there for the rest of the world to see, forever.

Even if you try to remove these posts later, it might be too late. Some posts may even trigger disciplinary action from your employer, such as if the post is deemed discriminatory in nature.

One way to avoid sharing too much private information online is to ask yourself if you would have a problem with your boss, parents, or kids seeing that post now or at any point in the future. If the answer is yes, don't post or send it.

The same guideline applies when having phone conversations in public places. Any time you are talking out loud, others can overhear you. This provides them access to your private information, so don't overshare.

Oversharing and Identity Theft

Although it can be fun to play along with social media posts that share your favorite color, first car, and the street you grew up on, these can be used by scammers to steal your identity and private information. Be discreet with any information that can be used as answers to security questions on your private accounts.


Don't Exclude Others

Couple ignoring each other at coffee shop

 Kosamtu / Getty Images

When it feels like you're being left out, it can lead to both negative emotions and a sense of lost control. While these effects can occur in males, they tend to be more prominent for females.

If you have an in-joke to share, send it in a private message. Additionally, don't post an obscure comment to your Facebook, a forum, or Instagram story as this can leave others feeling as if they are excluded from whatever it is you are talking about. 

The same goes for laughing at a text, social media meme, or email when you are in the presence of others. If you don't want to share what you are laughing about, save it for later so it doesn't feel like you're excluding the person you're with.

It is equally important to be mindful of who you decide to include, as some people prefer to not be added to large group texts or social media groups. Good netiquette involves getting their permission first to ensure that they're okay with it.


Choose Friends Wisely

Photo of friends connecting online

Getty Images / Riser

It can be insulting to be dropped from someone's social media friend list. So, think before sending a friend request or accepting an invitation. If you don't want to stay in touch with someone long-term, good netiquette is to not add them in the first place. 

To stay in touch with a colleague without adding them as a Facebook friend, tell them you only use Facebook for close personal friendships. Suggest that you connect on LinkedIn or another professional networking site to stay in touch.

The obvious exception to this netiquette rule is if you "friend" someone while you are getting along and then later have a disagreement. It is perfectly acceptable to unfriend someone if the relationship is beyond repair. Just don't torture them (or yourself) with on-again-off-again connecting. 


Respect People's Privacy

Share button on computer.

Don't forward information sent to you without checking with the original sender first; doing this behind their back can create mistrust if they find out. This includes copying and pasting texts or sending screenshots.

If you are forwarding an email message, use BCC (blind carbon copy) rather than CC (carbon copy) when sending it to more than one person. This helps protect the privacy of all the other email recipients.

You might think that we are all friends online, but some people don't want their names or email addresses publicized to those they don't know.

The same respect for privacy applies when uploading photos or videos online that include other people, whether to a public space or on your private social media page. Remember that if you tag people on Facebook, others can access these photos, unless the people in them have adjusted their privacy settings.

Finally, don't sign up for newsletters and other communications using someone else's information. It's simple enough to set up your own email account or supply your own number for texting and can protect you from irritating friends by having them receive emails or texts they don't want.


Fact Check Before Reposting

A rubber stamp stamping 'fake' in red ink on top of a piece of paper adorned with 'authentic'

Getty Images / Olivier Le Moal

That cure for cancer might sound pretty impressive, but it will just cause upset if it is a hoax. Urban myths, fake retailer coupons, and other forms of misinformation also add to the noise of the Internet and waste people's time. 

And if you think that fake online information is more the exception than the rule, think again. Research indicates that Facebook users alone engage with some form of misinformation around 70 million times each month.

If you aren't sure of the facts behind an online story or social media post, check with someone who does know or can find out. Another option is to do a search on Google or snopes.com to see if the post is true or if it is a scam.


Don't Spam

E-mail and spam concept
scanrail / Getty Images

The term "spam" applies to the receipt of any unwanted message. In the online world, spamming can refer to an unwanted email, text, or social media message.

Most of us are familiar with spam calls or spam emails from companies we didn't give permission to contact us. But we can also get spammed by family and friends, such as when they repeatedly contact us asking to take part in their latest business venture.

Avoid doing this to your contacts and it can help keep your relationships intact. If you want to share information with your contacts, ask before sending it. Taking this one step can keep you from being blocked.

Plus, many of the worst computer viruses in history have been circulated via mass emails. So don't open an email or social media message from someone you don't know. If the message contains a download, double-check with the sender before opening it to make sure it wasn't sent by someone pretending to be them. 


Respond to Emails and Texts Promptly

Custom text message response on Apple Watch

By all means, ignore and delete spam, unsolicited messages, and crazy stuff. You don't owe anyone a response if they are sending you something you didn't ask for in advance.

Otherwise, have the courtesy to reply to a message within a few days, especially if that message is from family or friends. If it is going to take longer, that's okay. Just tell them that so they know and aren't waiting for your reply. 

If the message is something you don't want to deal with, know that avoiding it not only won't cause it to go away but may even create more stress. Don't allow this to happen to you by responding as soon as you can.


Update Online Information

A 404 error message

 Hannesfr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Don't leave inaccurate information online just because you can't be bothered to update your social media profile or, if you own a business, your company's website. 

If you are going to be unavailable, for example, don't leave your hours of operation online indicating you will be available. If you can't keep your website up to date, take it down. 

Following this netiquette guideline is even more important if you're actively looking for a job online. If prospective employers find outdated information on your professional networking page, they might assume that you don't care enough about getting work.

A Word From Verywell

It is easy to lose your sense of what is going on around you when you are using technology. Follow these 10 netiquette "rules" to stay respectful to others. Using Internet etiquette can also protect your reputation, which is helpful on both personal and professional levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is netiquette important?

    Following netiquette helps enhance relationships with people you care about while also protecting your professional reputation. Practicing online etiquette can even reduce cyberbullying. Proper online information-sharing strategies are important to protecting other people's privacy and safeguarding your sensitive information.

  • What is the golden rule of netiquette?

    "Do not do or say online what you would not do or say offline." Before posting a comment or publishing a status update, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable saying the same thing face-to-face to everyone who will see it. If not, don't post it. The same rule applies to images. If you wouldn't print it out and pass it out to others, don't share it on your online platforms either.

  • Why is etiquette important in online meetings?

    Using Internet etiquette during online meetings enables you to stay professional. It also allows you to respect the other meeting attendants while providing a setting in which the meeting can run as smoothly as possible.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Society for Human Resource Management. Ask an expert: Online behavior.

  3. Hwang YH, Mattila A. Feeling left out and losing control: The interactive effect of social exclusion and gender on brand attitude. Int J Hospital Manage. 2019;77:303-10. doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2018.07.010

  4. Stanford University. Trends in the diffusion of misinformation on social media.

  5. Hewlett Packard. The top 10 worst computer viruses in history.

  6. Park S, Na EY, Kim EM. The relationship between online activities, netiquette and cyberbullying. Children Youth Serv Rev. 2014;42:74-81. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.04.002

  7. Columbus State University. Netiquette guidelines.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.