Unclear social etiquette online: how users experiment (and struggle) with interacting across many channels and devices in an ever-evolving and fast-changing landscape of communication tools

Martin Ortlieb

How should one behave and interact online? What kind of behavior can one expect from one’s partners in the online communication/interaction/transaction spaces from Social Networking to Online auctions and from Email and Instant messaging to blogs and reviews? These concerns from participants repeatedly surfaced in recently conducted research. People raised these issues, since they feel there is no established etiquette how purely online relationships should be conducted, but also how to transform relationships that began ‘online only’ into their social environments that reach beyond the Web. In my analysis I looked for practical clues from the research data: How do people calibrate their experiences with new forms and tools of communication on the Internet? How do they make sense and keep control of the digital relationships they’re engaging in? Based on these insights from research, I will illustrate how the current models of personal relationships (most notably the model of concentric realms extending outward from ego), especially online, are now proving insufficient, contradictory and unworkable for many users to be meaningfully applied in their social activities online.