#89: 10 rules of productive online communication - gen Z edition
Lessons learned with (no) blood and (all) tears
Disclaimer: theoretically speaking I’m a genZ. But I could never identify myself as one because I never quite know about most of the rules until recently. This is a gen Z edition, because gen Z practices these rules a lot, not because I’m one.
If you know what this is, you've lived some good years of your life.
I was born a couple of years before the golden era of Yahoo Chat, so I had been in the front-row seat of online texting, or online communication in general, ever since.
A lot of things have changed :sob_in_retrospective_voice: and it was so fast that I have to write this post: a compilation of all the modern netiquettes - to educate myself and many others I know that have been struggling.
A decade from now, this piece will most likely become outdated. I’m excited to see how it will be renovated in the future.
Okay. Here we go.
1. Never end a sentence with a period (".")
If someone ends their sentence with a period, stop all the jokes and behave yourself, cuz boi oh boi they are DAMN serious.
Your partner texts you "I'll be home for dinner", how light-hearted and cute is that? But if your partner texts you "I'll be home for dinner.", it suddenly becomes a threat, as in, "you better darn be there when I come home, and make good food, otherwise you're in trouble, honey"
Your boss texts you "Meet me in 10 minutes." --> You're bout to be fired.
Your friend texts you "I am happy for you." --> Highly likely they hate you and even wish the worst for you, but they have to text anyway cuz every friend in the group is doing so.
2. Never text without emojis or text emojis
Texting strips off the physical emotions, which are an important factor for meaning interpretation.
Therefore, you are, yes, sadly, required to show your emotion when texting.
Pretentious as it might be (since you might not really mean it but want the other to think you mean it), using emojis/text emojis during conversations is a social norm these days.
Consider this sentence: You have been to Japan before?
You have been to Japan before? 😲 --> you're surprised someone has the privilege to go there.
You have been to Japan before? 🤔 --> you doubt what they say is true
You have been to Japan before? 🙄 --> you think going to Japan is a bad idea and the other person is sooo stupid having gone there
Another example is how emojis/text emojis can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
Let's say your friend said that he's laid off from the company, and got compensated 6 months of salary. And you say:
I wish I could be laid off tomorrow too --> you seriously want to be laid off. Now you bring some gloomy cloud to the convo. You're to blame.
I wish I could be laid off tomorrow too :))) --> you don't want to be laid off, just want to get that huge sum of cash. You're being playful. Good job!
For some reason, not using emojis can be seen as not being emotionally invested in the conversation. This is especially true on dating apps.
That's why I never got any success there.
3. But do NOT ever send :) or 🙂
It looks dead in the eye. It's passive-aggressive. It's cold. It reverses all possible meanings of what is explicitly texted.
If someone texts you "Congratulations on your new role 🙂", they probably mean something along the line of "I am happy because we no longer work with each other", or "That role should have been mine you mtfk"
4. If you've seen it, reply it, can be anything, but REPLY IT ANYWAY!
The act of "seen-ing" but not replying can mean a lot of things, but none of those carry positive meanings. Here are some examples one can interpret it:
You're rude. You don't try to continue the conversation, or even bother to tell me to end it.
You don't love me anymore.
You are busy with someone/something else more important/interesting/sexy than me.
You're arrogant. You don't think I deserve an answer even the simplest.
You don't respect me.
You want war? Game on bitch.
After blaming the other party, a "seen" text will also cause extreme self-doubt and confusion:
Did I say something wrong/hurtful/offensive/not salty?
What should I say next? Am I lowering my ego to steal their attention?
Am I being a bad partner?
The list goes on.
5. If you've seen my story, you’d better reply to my message
Do NOT ever think you can get away with previewing a person's message on Messenger, not replying to them, and proceeding to view their Instagram stories without them knowing!
Here's a sad truth: Many people, after posting their Instagram stories, check who has viewed them. Every now and then, they'd open Instagram, tap on their own story, swipe up, see who's viewed it, and swipe away the app, all happening within a matter of seconds.
So they know, my friend, not precisely but quite correctly, when you've seen their stories.
And if you haven't even seen their messages, they would think: you knew they message you (cuz duh, you have time to check social media), but you chose not to reply.
6. "Haha" doesn't equal funny.
(See how the period makes this sentence 10x more serious?)
If your date ends their sentence with "haha", good luck, you're friend-zoned.
Nah, I'm just being an extreme head.
It's not that bad. But let's do an exercise: can you try reading a sentence that ends with "haha"? Does it sound fun? Do you actually laugh at the very end of a sentence? No weirdo does that. They laugh while they are talking, when it's really funny.
So we don't "laugh" at the end of a sentence.
Instead, we lol, we lmao, we rofl. If you want to make it extra funny, capitalize everything. LOL. LMAO. ROFL.
7. If we're a couple, you'd better like my photos.
It's okay if you haven't seen it.
But it's not okay if you have seen it and you didn't ❤️ it. That's sad. Really.
8. Be careful with being “okay”.
During a verbal convo, a simple "okay" is sufficient.
When texting, you need to be extremely sensitive to certain people, as they might take your "okay" quite heavily:
"K": you're okay, but I'm so unimportant you can't bother to type the full okay. Lack of respect.
"Ok": well, not too distant, but too cold
"Okay": hm, you don't seem to like it. It's "Ok" with hesitation
"OK": yeah I know you're okay, no need to shout to my face, rude.
"Okie": that's cute
"Okkk": hmm you’re overly enthusiastic. Tryna impress me not? (damn I sound Singaporean…)
"kay": you are mad, I can tell.
"kay.": abort the mission. Someone is extremely annoyed.
9. Capitalizing the first letter in a sentence will reveal where you are
I never thought of this until a friend asked "Were you outside when texting me?"
I was shocked. How could she know??
Yep, it's the way I capitalize my first letter.
On my laptop (which I usually use at home or cafes), I almost never capitalize my letter when chatting with my friends (take a look at your old convos and see for yourself). It's because there's no need to.
But on my phone, the first letter is auto-capitalized, no matter which app.
So next time if you don't want to give away your whereabouts, either start capitalizing on your computer, or change phone settings to never auto-capitalize the first letter haha.
10. If I tag you on my story on Instagram, you must repost
This is considered basic etiquette like saying hello when you see a friend or saying "please" when you ask for a favor.
It's an act of exchange. Someone "promotes" you on their story, so you also must promote them on yours.
As I’m stepping into my late 20s, I merely view these rules as mental overheads. But I do understand that’s how a lot of people around me are doing, and sometimes, I just don’t want to be the wet blanket, you know?
Many thanks to my friends and my dates who went the extra mile to explain all the nuances of online communication nowadays to me. I'm forever grateful for your help.
If you happen to know more rules, please please please let me know in the comment. I’m happy to learn!
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To be honest, anyone who needs everyone to walk on such eggshells when communicating with them needs to toughen up. Full stop. Without emojis. :) Grow up.
The only person I know who still uses emojis is my grandmother because she thinks they are cute