I wish all form four candidates success in their KCSE which they began early this week. As I welcome them to the world after school, there is some basic communication etiquette that they need to learn. By the time many youth leave secondary school they are “digital” and actually on the social media. But often they bring along a baggage of incredulity that they carry to college and the workplace. Frequently, they throw good manners out of the window and discuss lurid, stupid and offensive things. They forget that millions of people the world over, including their future college lecturers and employers, are tracking their conversations.
A common mistake that many youths make is in the wrong choice of their social media account names and profile pictures. With the email becoming an essential tool of communication, it is important for the youth to consider an appropriate name for their accounts. Certainly, email names like [email protected] or [email protected] and fake Facebook identities like Beyonce, Cate James, Mpenda Udaku, Shiro Msweet (and I am being modest here!), Loser, Fraudulent, Pirates and so on won’t do! Sticking to one’s real name on email, facebook and WhatsApp and other media shows authenticity and good intentions.
Information and communications technology experts warn that a lot of contacts can be lost when people view your profile as suspicious. Some social media are about real relationships, like Googleplus and Facebook and WhatsApp groups, and some authentic data is vital. Certainly, one cannot cheat on his or her relatives and schoolmates.
As our KCSE candidates will be addressing people who are senior to them in the next decade and beyond, it matters a lot how they write emails, SMSs and posts in a plethora of social media platforms. This is the time to start practicing how to write legibly and officially. An email must have a good subject line.
Often many email recipients read only halfway through long messages and make hasty replies as soon as they have something to contribute. This is human nature. So, if an email contains multiple messages that are loosely related, a reader will reply only to the first item that grabs his or her attention. It’s good to number one’s points to ensure that they are all read. It helps greatly to make an introductory line indicating that there are many parts in the message. If the points are substantial enough, one can split them up into separate emails so that their recipients can respond to each item separately.
Writing an email, or an SMS, in an abbreviated form like, “thx 4 ur help 2day u r gr8”, to a senior person is not only discourteous but also offensive. Abbreviations are no-go zone in official emails just like fancy typefaces. Messages written in capital letters in emails and social media posts come across as shouting.
There will be instances when our youth may need to send email attachments. For example, they may want their recipients to view their school certificates and store them. But generally, attachments should be avoided as much as possible and plain text suffices on the email page. Attachments take time to download and to scan for viruses. Not every recipient has time for this.
Just like with the SMSs, our youth must never send anything through email and other social media that they would not want their parents or guardians to see. This rule of thumb should be a guide on what is acceptable or otherwise. In some companies, IT departments routinely read incoming and outgoing emails. In fact, some local corporations are routinely surfing the social media platforms to see how job applicants rate in respectability and job suitability. Such companies are interested in whom one keeps company on social media and more importantly, the kind of posts job seekers make.
Our youth should learn early on the areas to avoid on the social media as soon they buy their first phone. Talking about oneself all the time is bad. It is discourteous to complain to virtual strangers about your family and friends, college, county and country. This is the surest way to lose credibility online.
Personal requests for scholarships, medical assistance, gifts and money are no go zones in the social media. And as is happening with frightening regularity, our youths have taken to posting coarse, sexist and inappropriate messages and videos over the social media.
The current crop of KCSE candidates must be alive to these facts that whatever they say and share on the social media can go full cycle and come to haunt them. They must therefore be business-like and wise on the social media from the moment go.
Kariuki is the careers master at Nyandarua high school, Ol Kalou.