How to Engage Online

It was the summer of 2018, a young lady had just secured an internship position with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She was so excited that she took to the social media to tweet, “EVERYONE SHUT THE F**K UP I GOT ACCEPTED FOR A NASA INTERNSHIP”. Someone commented on her post to correct her, “Language” the person replied. She fired back at the person. This went on until the man revealed that he was a council member of NASA. She lost the position temporarily.

As the face of social interactions changes, more people now connect on the social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) as the demands to keep in touch with friends and family increases. Bringing some social etiquette along online could improve the interactions happening on the social media space. It may also help you connect with more meaningful people that will enrich your network. I have highlighted areas you need to take seriously when relating with people online.

Courtesy- it is natural to greet people you are meeting for the first time and introduce yourself. Same applies online but how it is done is also important. The basic form of expression in formal letter writing is Dear sir/ma. There is a growing trend among young people to type, “hi”, “hello”, “xup” to strangers online. It is rude and may only cause them to block you. “Hello sir/ma” or “Hi Dave” (if you have a relationship with the person). Once you don’t start your conversation well from your salutations, you will miss out on many other things. Salutation speaks volume about you. Then tell a brief about yourself and reason for connecting with them.

Social media may be a leveler but there are people behind every profile you see online, and all of them deserve respect. Don’t lose your courtesy online. Don’t send “hi” and expect reply. Greet people and state your reason for contacting them. They will reply you when they are free. Don’t disturb people beyond what they can bear.

Respect people’s view – I learnt something from Dr. Olagoke Ifatimehin, “you don’t respect people for who they are, you respect them for who you are.” You will meet different people online with divergent opinions. Don’t insult people because you disagree with them. Respect their right to express themselves even when you disagree with them. A young man hauled insults at another person during the 2015 election. Three years later, he got a job and was posted to a Northern state. Upon resumption, he was sent to a department to resume work. However, the HOD refused to accept him. Why? You may ask. The young man insulted the HOD’s mother during an online argument. He reminded the boy the exchange with evidence. The lad pleaded to be forgiven. Well, the man forgave him but told the HR to reassign him because “we are relatives”. That was the HOD’s excuse.

Language – mind your language when you interact with people or post online. There is something called digital footprints. Everything you have ever typed online can be traced to you. A guy once typed, “I am always lazy to get out of bed in the morning” on his Facebook status. Many months later, a company was considering him for a job, so they searched his social media and found that message. They had to call one of his referees, who spoke in his favour before he was employed. You might not be that lucky. Embassies like the USA now request for your social media accounts before granting visas.

Be official while interacting online until you are familiar enough. Don’t form familiarity when none exists. It might work against you. Trust is earned and it costs twice as much effort to earn trust online.

Network objectively – As you interact with people, have an objective. It helps to make the best of the relationships, as it gives an impression of a worthwhile relationship. In the course of that, avoid asking for money from random people. Don’t drop your account number for a giveaway. It tells more about you than you can imagine. It demeans you and could terminate the relationship earlier than expected. Don’t ask for money. Don’t ask for sex or marriage. Avoid asking for help until you have built a strong relationship with the person.

Finally, avoid flaunting your life online, though you might find many people doing it but remember that everything you see is curated to give you some social media tension. To make you feel they are doing fine. Nobody is fine every time. We all have our down times which you are not likely to see online. If you give a false impression about yourself, it could send your helpers far away from you.
Wishing you success as you network your way to the top.