New York Magazine recently published its definitive list of etiquette tips for anyone who might need them, updated with COVID precautions and things that have changed amidst the shifting social landscape. (How to deal with layoffs! How to host a dinner party with celebrities, a scenario that I am personally definitely familiar with!)
Some of the rules relating to digital communication cover what we already know — unless you were born in an era without phones, texting someone “k” is basically like asking to get jumped, and asking friends for their consent before posting a conversation or photo online is a baseline courtesy. But there aren’t a lot of firm guidelines about manners for the terminally online (all of us). Here are our recommendations for digital etiquette.
Finstas, Close Friends, And Privacy
1. Don't ask to be added to someone's Close Friends or Twitter circle. That’s their private platform! Asking to be invited in is as rude as walking into an acquaintance’s house and expecting them to feed you.
2. What’s said in Close Friends stays in Close Friends. Sometimes people need to let off steam about work or subtweet a friend in peace. If you’re in that select circle, they trust you to not share that around. Screenshotting, quoting, or screen recording is a breach of trust.
3. Posting “alright who wants in ???” is corny.
4. A finsta with more than 100 followers is just a vlog space. You trust 100 people with your deepest, darkest secrets? Be so for real.
5. Once you’re not friends with someone anymore, it’s best to remove them from your finsta. My friends and I cut ties with someone who had a finsta that we all followed. She also had a close friends group within the finsta where she’d talk shit about me and my friends to her other friends.
6. Venmo should always — always — be on private. GO PRIVATE ON VENMO THERE IS NO REASON NOT TO I ONCE FOUND OUT MY FRIEND WAS SECRETLY HOOKING UP WITH HER BOSS VIA VENMO JUST GO PRIVATE.
7. You don’t need to watch every TikTok your friends send. We are all overstimulated every moment of the day. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to click on every link they receive.
8. If you’ve seen a TikTok/meme/whatever before, don’t be a jerk. If a friend texts you a TikTok you've already seen, simply react with the “haha” and don't tell them “yeah I've already seen it.”
9. Be considerate when using someone else’s streaming login. If you’re logged into an account belonging to someone you know super well who has given you access, you're good. But if you are using your friend's brother's or godmother's nephew’s account to watch Ant-Man or whatever, you should only use it to watch something specific, then log out.
10. If you’re planning on unfollowing someone, remove them from your followers, too. Anything else just seems like a weird grab for a following ratio, which we know is a dated social media clout metric.
11. Don't take it personally if someone doesn’t accept your BeReal request. Sometimes people just want to keep things to an audience of three people, and that doesn’t mean they hate you.
12. If you put someone on FaceTime or speakerphone, you must let them know if someone else is in the room. You never know what’s about to happen.
13. When you’re dining with people who post, let the phone eat first. Brunch overlays are not the worst crime that has ever happened! If a friend wants to take a photo of their omelet, don’t deprive them of a beat to capture that nice memory.
14. No more than two food photos at the table. Brunch is nice, but there’s no way it’s nicer than two photos. One initial shot, and then a retake if it’s blurry. That’s it. The phone goes screen down on the table. Don’t make people wait!
15. If your friend says they are five minutes away and you see they’re still at home on Find My Friends, you cannot call them out. You already know how long you actually need to wait. They are five minutes away in their heart, and you can tease them once you meet up IRL. If they’re always doing this, well, that’s a different conversation.
16. When you meet someone at a party, you can ask for their social handles when one of you leaves. Use social media the way it was intended! Keep in touch with someone you think is cool, and send them a nice message after. Instagram if you thought they were cute, Twitter if you’d like to network with them. Only if they’re not online can you ask for their number, which is decidedly way more personal than your socials.
17. If someone asks for your social media details and you don’t want to share, just lie. “I’m not super online!” is the best excuse. You don’t owe them anything.
18. If someone asks you to take a photo of them in a busy area, take three Live photos. That way they can scroll through the picture for their key photo and get a little bundle of options, and no one’s phone will be clogged up with blurry photos featuring someone’s half-closed eyes. No retakes. We all have places to be.
19. Airdropping photos to your friends is better than texting them. What is this, 2018?
20. If you see someone you matched with on an app IRL, keep it pushing. That goes for dating apps as well as platforms like Bumble BFF. The city is big. There are other people around.
Flirting And Lurking
21. Liking a post while deep in the archive happens. But you need to get out of there fast. If you’re stalking your ex’s new partner and accidentally like their post, you must immediately unlike, make your account private, erase your bio, and change your username.
22. If you’re just starting to see someone, or if you have a crush, do not lurk on their Spotify. Public profiles, where people usually try to curate their presence, are fine. But anything else is too intimate. What, you want to read their diary or crack open their skull under a microscope while you’re at it?
23. Following someone immediately on two separate platforms means you’re DTF.
24. The fire react and 100 react on Instagram are inherently flirty. Please keep in mind moving forward.
25. Always double-check who your Instagram story reply is going to. If you’re trying to send X’s story to Y, with commentary, make sure you’re not sending the DM to X. And if you do get caught sending the wrong thing to someone, unsend the message and apologize as soon as possible.
26. If you hooked up with someone once and they still watch your Instagram Stories, don’t read into it. They’re probably stuck on the subway, not thinking about you.
27. When someone lets slip a piece of information they learned while lurking your social media, don’t bully them about it. You don’t want that energy coming back around to you, and saying, “Haha, were you stalking me?” is not going to make the situation feel normal again.
28. Hide or mute anyone you have bad blood with from seeing your stories. Life is too short to wonder why they’re watching your content. If a frenemy is watching your stories, congratulations, you won.
29. Stop giving people your Snapchat when flirting. We are not 12 anymore.
30. Soft launch or hard launch whenever you want — no one cares that much. People will only want the tea once you start posting about the tea.
31. If you do choose to indicate a relationship change, accept that people are going to snoop. Social media is meant for other people’s consumption, otherwise you’d write it in a journal.
32. The first photo of your dating profile should not be a group photo. Eggs are $10 and we’re fighting for Beyoncé tickets. We don’t have the time to try to figure out which one you are amidst a group of 12.
33. You don’t need to tell everyone that you broke up. Unless you are a reality television star sharing with your fans, your biology partner from middle school doesn’t need to know that you’re consciously uncoupling but going to remain friends.
34. Unfollow your friend’s ex out of solidarity. Or on the flip side, if the breakup is amicable, you can grant amnesty to allow everyone to follow your exes.
35. Archive all the couple photos on Instagram if you’re recently single. You don’t owe people the details of your personal life, but if you’re planning on seeing other people, it might make things a bit clearer from the get-go.
Texts, Replies, And Comments
36. Text with a purpose. Never ever ever ever just text “Hi.” State your question or thought in the first text in order to keep everyone’s nerves at a healthy level.
37. Schedule your FaceTimes. Calling someone out of the blue in this day and age is really anxiety-inducing!
38. Texts in lowercase make things less serious, texts in Upper Case means business, and texts with punctuation are asking for a fight. Of course, this all depends if you’re Gen X, Millennial, or Gen Z, but the general rule of thumb is that the younger you are, the more aware of this rule you should be.
39. People over 30 need to stop using GIFs in replies. Especially that one of the woman spitting out her coffee.
40. You aren’t obligated to share an Instagram story every time you’re tagged. Your friends know you love them in your heart. You might just not want to repost it.
41. Give people a little sympathy. Digital communication never conveys intonation or intention. The best thing to do is to always try and resolve things offline, or at least over a call.
42. Express your positive reactions out loud, you could make a friend. One of my favorite things to do is have a single glass of wine and reply to people's Instagram stories. Friendships are forged through story compliments. It’s like a bar bathroom line.
43. If you’re going to like the comment on someone’s post, like the post itself too. If you’re going to be at the party, thank the host!
44. Using your account to post superficial activism infographics is weird. At this point, we’ve progressed past the point of pretending it’s doing anything. Share mutual aid funds you like, Venmo handles, or events that support an organization you support, but a pastel carousel about loving each other isn’t action.
45. Don’t have interpersonal fights on any platform or in texts. If it’s a stranger, you should stop, and if it’s someone you actually know and care about, just fucking talk to them.
46. Leave the black square up. Let everyone see that choice you made.
47. Post whatever you want while assuming people are mindlessly scrolling through. It’s your platform, so you reserve the right to do whatever you want with it — just keep in mind that there’s probably not an excited audience on the other end. Do it for you!
48. If you edit a picture, only FaceTune yourself. You might know how you like to edit your photos, but you don’t want to assume what someone else’s insecurities are or cause tension because you edited their appearance.
Posting About Work
49. You aren’t obligated to respond to someone from high school who is trying to induct you into their MLM over Facebook. Just take it as a sign of how Bethany from study hall is doing.
50. Don’t DM someone and ask how they got verified. Either they have a job that warranted it or they had $8 lying around.
51. If you screenshot an article because it’s good, include the link. Put it in the reply or name it in the video. A writer worked hard on it and not crediting their work is rude.
52. Do the ✨personal news✨ announcement. People might joke about the format, but the only way your network will know what you’re up to is if you share it.
Second And Stan Accounts
53. Tag your spoilers within two weeks of a premiere. It’s just polite.
54. But also, know that if you go online, you might see spoilers. Especially after two weeks, the discourse has moved on and it’s on you to watch it.
55. If you find someone’s stan account, don’t mention it to them IRL. We all lead different lives online, and if they’ve obscured their identity, they probably want to remain within their stan ecosystem. However, if it’s promoting something dangerous or violent, then that’s fair game.
56. Not every pet needs an Instagram account. I think your dog is very cute, but not cute enough to warrant following a second account. Particularly if the posts are written as though the pet is posting. The pet cannot speak English. I’m already fighting ads and random Reels to see my friends’ content. There simply cannot be another thing in the mix.
57. Haranguing people to follow your second account for your musical career or baby is not appropriate. Again, we’re all overstimulated here. Let people consume the content they have the capacity to consume.
Interacting With Influencers
58. Always ask permission to take a photo with them. Just like any other person, it’s only fair to them to get their consent!
59. Streamers aren’t your friends and giving them money won’t make them be your friend. They’re at work and giving them a Tier 3 gift doesn’t make you entitled to their emotions or time. They might give you a shoutout, but they don’t owe you anything beyond that.
60. Don't backseat game. If you think you could play better, keep it to yourself. You’re here for entertainment and if you’re not entertained… just exit the stream.
61. Giving constructive criticism and being mean are two different things. Influencers should be held accountable for their public behavior, but if your comment doesn’t make them think about the impact of their content, you’re just being mean.
Cody Corrall, Ikran Dahir, Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, Brandon Hardin, Amber Jamieson, Lil Kalish, Alexa Lee, David Mack, Emerson Malone, Paige Skinner, Estelle Tang, Zia Thompson, Kelsey Weekman, and Venessa Wong contributed to this story.