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Do's and don’ts of the digital lifestyle

Katja Mayer 24.04.2012
Juliane (23) studies business administration at the International University of Applied Sciences Bad Honnef - Bonn (IUBH). Every morning before breakfast, she grabs her iPhone and reads her new e-mails, checks Facebook to see what her friends are up to and scans the latest headlines on Spiegel Online

She then reads the local newspaper while eating muesli and drinking coffee. Juliane also uses numerous online databases to conduct research for her degree. She makes video calls with lecturers via Skype to get swift and direct feedback on certain topics for her final paper.

Die digitalen Medien sind längst in unserem Alltag verankert
Ein Leben ohne Smartphone & Co. ist für Juliane nicht denkbar

Is this the digital lifestyle or has it now become just a normal way of living? These days, the idea of living our everyday lives and communicating with colleagues, family and friends without electronic media is unthinkable. But it has also changed some rules of conduct. There are now books about e-etiquettenews sites about digital age and not to be forgotten: the etiquette literature classic by Adolph Freiherr Knigge.

We have put together a few guidelines for good manners in the digital world here: on social networking sites, in e-mails, video conferences or online chats with friends. For example, Juliane has never broken up with anyone digitally... She also appreciates how important printed content is in certain life situations. Here are a few tips on how to get along with people who still remember what it was like to send faxes back and forth:

  • If you are using a communication channel that is new to you, start by taking the time to simply observe and determine the fundamental rules of behavior.
  • You own a cell phone to stay in touch with people. It will annoy others if they can never get a hold of you. If you receive a call from an unknown number, answer it with your full name.
  • Being online doesn’t necessarily mean someone is available. They may be in the middle of a presentation. Don’t rudely burst in by requesting a video call. Knock gently via chat first instead.

Online communication via e-mail

There are also a few rules to be aware of when communicating via e-mail. Do you know anyone who complains that they don’t receive enough e-mails? If anything, many people feel they are unable to get their inbox under control.

  • Keep your e-mails short and to the point. If you do write a long e-mail, don’t expect one of a similar length in return.
  • Ignore other people’s spelling errors, unless they have misspelled your name. Spelling mistakes in formal e-mails create a bad impression, whereas an error in informal e-mails can make you come across as more human :)
  • incorrectly punctuated, e-mails written, entirely in lower case make you look uneducated or lazy.
  • DIGITAL CORRESPONDANCE IN CAPITALS IS JUST LIKE SCREAMING AND IS ALSO DIFFICULT TO READ.
  • The subject line of an e-mail is like the label on a moving box. It should tell you what’s inside. Empty subject lines make it difficult to organize your inbox and find old e-mails again.
  • Be respectful of the recipient’s e-mail traffic: Sending e-mails with large file attachments is like traveling with excess baggage. It often slows down or even blocks the system.
  • Quickly confirm receipt of important e-mails if you need more time to respond. Let the person know when they can expect to receive your full reply.
  • Don’t write e-mails as though you are a robot. Always try to add some human warmth. It’s considered good form to begin and end an e-mail properly, regardless of time pressure.
  • FYI – don’t use any complicated abbreviations. (“For your information”).
  • Apologizing for e-mails sent to the wrong person will simply make the situation worse. Next time, think before you press send.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the pen. A hand-written thank you note means more than a quickly typed message.
  • An endless chain of frustrated e-mails can be avoided with a quick telephone call.

This list could go on forever! What do you do? And what do you not do? Tell us about your experiences in the digital age!

Editor: Katja Mayer in collaboration with the Karrierebibel

Video: Watch a video on safety tips on how to deal with social networking.