Etiquette for the unreal world.


People write 'IRL', as if the internet isn't real-life.

Understandable confusion.

In the old days there was 'cyberspace'. Infinite landmass, gleefully anonymous, working on unique rules of time and place. Our social order could be inverted: the powerful robbed, the geek a king.

Magic was always possible in cyberspace: you could buy drugs, find love, even have someone killed if you wanted.

Unlike meatspace: timebound, spacebound and you. Meatspace is real-life, where we drag our meat-forms between office cubicles and home-boxes, feeding ourselves, sweating out toxins and ruminating on the day we'll eventually die.

Magic is possible in meatspace too, but usually just if you're rich.

Cyberspace and meatspace have been colliding for decades. Now you can summon a car from your phone, order food from your wrist, be doxxed by online hate groups, or follow QAnon from Berlin.

The problem is, by not cultivating the best of each world, we're ending up with the worst of both.


The debate around online behaviour, bullying, censorship, privacy and the like, has inevitably become functional and mechanistic. We believe that more rules and systems will save us - whether armies of moderators curating hate-speech, or algorithms sussing out deepfakes.

We forget: social conventions have defined millennia of interactions.

Cultures vary, but there are global manners - most would find it strange if mid-conversation I were to fling my shit like a chimpanzee.

So as a start, it's down to us to define acceptable behaviour, wherever it takes place.

Focusing on online etiquette is more meaningful than regulation. It puts the onus squarely on us as individuals. We curate our own online spaces: we determine acceptable conduct. Every interaction is a situation where we encode our beliefs in others, scaling the world we want.

If you don't want a mealtime zombified to screens, say so. Seek out and cultivate the online spaces that aren't argumentative and crass. If you're unsure of the lines, just try to not be creepy.

Society is a continuum, with different channels to reach it.

Cyberspace needs meatspace manners.