How to Behave Online: 84 New Rules

Advice for navigating work Slack, AI-fueled social media, dating apps and just about every facet of our always-online existence

We spend more time online today than ever before. Our digital lives are inextricably intertwined with our offline ones, to the point that the mere idea of “spending time online” actually seems dated, a phrase that would get you slapped with an “OK Boomer” if that hadn’t already entered the meme dumpster. We don’t spend time online anymore. We simply are online, all the time. The problem is, we still don’t always know how to act.

In person, we all at least understand how to be civil. There are physical cues, instincts that have been honed over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. But online, every single one of us is a jerk — and if we’re not trying to be jerks, we are at least unwitting ones. We’re also careless, inconsiderate, narcissistic and just plain stupid. It’s not always our fault; this is just what happens when tech previously reserved for science fiction (video chatting, artificial intelligence, TikTok, the list goes on) gets developed at an increasingly rapid clip, then dropped instantly into ergonomic rectangles in our pockets.

We thought that now was as good of a time as ever for a hard reset, in the form of 84 new rules for how to behave online. We labored over this etiquette update: speaking to experts in fields from political science to social media privacy, jettisoning bad staff opinions with abandon, arguing over hyper-specific pieces of advice (and, when we couldn’t come to an agreement, offering both sides for you to decide for yourself).

From your workplace Slack to social feeds to the places where our online and public lives collide (we see you, Billy Eichner wannabes), we’ve got the definitive rules to help you navigate these digital spaces. As it turns out, all of us need to take a long, hard look in the selfie camera. — Alex Lauer

1. Slacking after work hours is, in fact, okay. Expecting a response is not.

2. Never use social media to follow up on a work email. Social media is personal, not professional, and most people prefer to keep all their work-related communication in one place so it’s easy to keep track of. You wouldn’t call their cell phone after-hours or show up at their house unannounced, so why would you feel comfortable sliding into their DMs with “Hey, did you see my email?”

3. When you’re in a video meeting with fewer than five people, have your camera on. If it’s a whole company meeting and you’re not speaking, feel free to bask in the anonymity of a blank screen. It’s no different than if you sat in the back of a conference room in person. But if you work at a small company or are in an intimate group meeting, keeping your camera off communicates something loud and clear: you don’t want to be here. Or you’re on a covert Starbucks run.

4. Don’t force people to use Microsoft Teams or, god forbid, Webex for video calls. It’s either Zoom or Google Meet, end of story.

No. Keep your babies and pets off of Zoom.

We had a coworker once who purposely had his cat crawl over him on every Zoom call (we get it, meetings are boring and you crave attention). Zoom isn’t an ideal way to communicate in a large group, so keep distractions to a minimum. If you must, show off your personal life during the first five minutes when “We’re just waiting for a few more people” is the only conversation. —Kirk Miller

Yes. If you don’t like these “interruptions,” that’s a you problem.

No workplace is free from distraction. You may not care what Trevor did on his weekend trip to Tahoe, but you’re his coworker, so you’ll take a few minutes next to the water cooler to indulge him. Even tense meetings come with lame jokes and unnecessary tangents from people who don’t know what else to say. If all of these distractions are not only tolerated, but encouraged, then let’s accept a new facet of workplace distraction camaraderie: photobombing babies and keyboard-trotting pets. — Alex Lauer

6. Take your workplace-related feedback to a place where you can be anonymous, like Glassdoor. Your employer (and future employers) can, and do, see you trashing your job on Twitter. Even if you’re totally in the right, the optics are still bad.

7. Treat huddles on Slack like you would any meeting. Your spontaneous virtual discussion has all the technical limitations of any other audio/video conversation (“Can everyone hear me?” “We’ll wait a few minutes for everyone to join.”) and is just as annoying as a spontaneous in-person meeting.

You’ve synched your work laptop with your phone (and iPad). At work, you keep separate browsers open for personal and work projects. From all your devices, you and a few employees often access a “private” Slack channel — hosted on your workplace’s Slack network — where you talk sports. Despite all warnings, you’re casually intermingling your work and personal lives using the same technology. And that has a lot of potential to get you in trouble. 

“There can be zero expectation of privacy in a work environment,” says Michael Hasse, who has been a cybersecurity and technology consultant for over 30 years. “Even if your system at work isn’t so locked down as to prevent a VPN being installed, the fact is that many corporations have monitoring tools that can capture keystrokes and take screenshots nowadays with AI-driven analysis on the back end to call out suspicious or unusual activity.”

“If you want privacy, you need to use your devices and accounts that are outside the purview of your company,” suggests Seth Geftic, the vice president of product marketing at Huntress, a cybersecurity firm. “Businesses usually have policies allowing them to monitor communications for security or compliance reasons and private messages can be audited if there’s a security concern or compliance check. Always assume that anything posted could be reviewed by your employer.”

In other words, don’t assume your employer is “cool” about your seemingly innocuous online interactions. “I’ve even worked for companies that not only tracked our communications but also knew how long we were at work, where we went inside the building and what non-work-related applications we were using,” adds Geftic. “Hopefully there are not too many who also go to those lengths to track employees.”

But when it comes to corporations and privacy, it’s probably best not to rely on “hopefully.— Kirk Miller

9. Never use email trackers to hassle people. “I saw that you opened my email—” Stop right there. If you need something urgently, communicate that without implicating yourself in low-stakes spying.

10. Starting a new discussion? Start a new email chain. If we just spent 30 emails on one topic, I don’t want to continue that chain talking about something else.

11. Not all emails are urgent. Here are examples of messages that classify as urgent: 

  • Any request or question that’s time-sensitive (in other words, requires a response within 48 hours or less) — though these should be clearly labeled as such in the subject line so the recipient knows to open and read it right away. 
  • A correction or a request for some error to be addressed. 
  • Any scenario in which money has changed hands: a receipt, an invoice, a billing question, etc. 

Just about everything else is not. Wait a week to follow up with a polite nudge. If you genuinely do need an immediate response, you’ll have better luck picking up the phone and calling. — Bonnie Stiernberg

12. The boring sign-off is hereby canceled. No more “Best” or “Regards.” Come up with something original. Anything! Anything at all. Options include: “Hasta la pasta” and “On the edge.”

13. Using proper punctuation and reasonable grammatical structure for work email is a must. No matter how short the confirmation or how brief the message, save the “k” for iMessage, please.

14. Don’t share a news story unless you’ve actually read it. Falling for a sensationalized headline? Embarrassing!

15. Triple-check if what you’re sharing is from a valid source. This applies not only to news articles but also to TikTok videos, AI-generated images, bot accounts and the like. It’s been recently reported that TikTok users in the U.K. are being fed misleading election news, and no doubt the upcoming U.S. presidential election will see its own deluge of false or deceptive narratives spread across various social platforms. Not to mention, it takes five seconds to Google whether what you come across is factual or not, so there’s really no excuse to be spreading misinformation.

16. Profile pronouns aren’t the culture-war virtue-signaling people want it to be. On one hand, many sensible and supportive folk might not have identifying descriptors in their IG profile, and judging every single account for not having pronouns in bio is poor form, as long as they’re not reposting QAnon threads. That being said, dropping your pronoun preference couldn’t be simpler — it’s as easy as changing your handle or replacing your bio emojis — and, moreover, it’s just a common courtesy. We won’t be assholes about it, so get around to it, please.

21. Feel free to name and shame airlines on Twitter. It’s still the best way to get a response when other avenues fail.

22. Never retweet Elon Musk. You’ll regret it. Plus, he doesn’t need your help boosting his 3 a.m.tirades. He owns the company.

23. Call it Twitter or call it X. Just don’t call it “X, formerly known as Twitter” anymore.

24. Don’t like X? Then just leave it already. It’s not going back to old Twitter, and the man-child running it isn’t going to get better. There are plenty of alternatives, and the more we embrace those other social media channels, the less power X will have.

25. Don’t send fire emojis to a babe on Instagram if you have a partner. Odd, isn’t it, that this needs to be called out? While “liking” a grid post is totally innocuous, reacting to an Instagram story is established digital behavior for flirting — especially if you’re sliding up with the heart-eyed or fire emojis. This is not a crime if you’re single (although, if you are going to slide into someone’s DMs, use your words, not a picture), but the number of times I’ve received an unwelcome fire emoji on a selfie or bikini-clad photo of myself from a man with a girlfriend is truly mind-boggling. Not only is it wildly uncomfortable, but it makes me want to swear off the straight male species forever. — Logan Mahan

A major world event takes place. People share links, ask questions and express concern. For about five minutes. Then, like everything on social media, the event itself fades and the online discourse devolves into a torrent of biased information, impassioned arguments that leave little room for compromise, a few worthy reads (that will sway no one except those who share those same beliefs) and, probably, insensitive memes.

Oddly, the person on social media who drives me the craziest during these traumatic global events? The one who decides they need to say something — oftentimes with emojis and ALL CAPS emphasis — while really saying absolutely nothing. Just a cry for attention that hopes to not offend but keeps the poster front and center in the conversation. 

Why does this offend me? To learn if I was overreacting, I reached out to Timothy Rich, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University whose research centers on public opinion, including perceptions of free speech, misinformation and the use of social media.

“I think there’s a bigger issue here of the limited formats to engage critically offline, which creates the incentive for such limited and often uncritical responses [online],” Rich says. “We also commonly see this problem in survey work — respondents are hesitant to say they have no opinion or are neutral on a topic, especially if there are already existing partisan cues.”

So I should go easy on the unhelpful social media posters? “My sense is part of this is a desire to be seen, even if the posters don’t explicitly realize this,” he says. “It seems increasingly that people feel unheard, but also, perhaps egocentrically, think all opinions matter. What this leads to is just more noise, which will distract from any sincere attempts at constructive dialogues. At the same time, I do think there’s a sliver of the online community that wants to see greater civility, but don’t know how to encourage this.” — Kirk Miller

27. You’re not allowed to shit on a situation in a city if you don’t live there. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen someone on social media explaining in an unsolicited, typo-ridden paragraph why [Wherever, USA] has officially devolved into the ninth circle of hell — only for me to take a cursory click on their profile and see they live somewhere thousands of miles away. It’s a bad look. Next time you see a video of a chaotic metro or a chart illustrating skyrocketing rent, please resist the urge to let that single data point confirm your every bias (or self-insecurity) regarding somewhere you’ve probably never been. Oh, and that’s another thing: if you’ve traveled somewhere once and didn’t like it, that doesn’t give you lifetime carte blanche to comment “Skip it. That place sucks.” Maybe you caught it on a rainy day. Maybe your itinerary sucked. It’s harder to keep a kind and open mind, but future travelers — not to mention the literal people who live there — deserve it.

Since early spring of this year, an Instagram account called @hedidntsaythis has regularly featured LeBron James delivering head-scratching pressers. “James” will claim he inspired Michael Burry to short the mortgage bond market, or that he helped Drake ensnare Kendrick Lamar in that hidden-daughter controversy. It’s all fake, as the account’s name suggests, and some of the videos lean extremely ridiculous: James will talk about his preference for training in outer space, in lower gravity, because “it’s easier on the joints.” 

What’s unsettling about the videos is how realistic some of them are. Commenters routinely arrive confused. “Wait, did he actually say this???” That’s because the monologues are actually in James’s voice, and his mouth moves in eerie tandem with the words. It’s a trick of AI, specifically the Parrot: Voice Generator AI App, which is currently #64 among Entertainment apps in the App Store. The app is rated for people 9 years old and up. 

According to an AI expert, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, this sort of app barely scratches the surface of AI’s potential. “It’s pretty elementary based on what I’ve seen,” he said. “I’d presume it’s able to stay up on Instagram because it’s ‘parody.’ Actual posts that are super good get taken down because of impersonation.”

It’s mollifying to hear that platforms have a policy in place to take down deepfakes. But many will slip through the cracks, of course. AI is only getting better, faster and more ambitious. (Google “Luma Dream Machine.”) And at this point, we can’t exactly trust big tech to do the right thing. To that end, while bouncing around the internet and reading or watching things quickly — and forming judgments just as quickly — keep the existence of AI front of mind. We’re only talking about parody pressers now, but it’s all going to get incomprehensibly more real in the coming months and years. — Tanner Garrity

29. Don’t fall for the rage-bait. Social media algorithms prioritize content that elicits the most engagement. Unfortunately, that content is often rage-bait. Outrage sells, and influencers make content specifically to incite anger. Between staged skits and misogynistic hot takes from alpha-male podcasters, it’s easy to become enraged over any random clip that comes across your FYP. But before you go release your wrath in the comments section, just remember, this is by design. The more you engage with these videos, the more they get promoted by the algorithm, and in turn, the more money these platforms and rage-baiters generate. Going forward, just block these accounts and go about your day.


34.  If you’re older than your mid-20s, it’s time to get off Snapchat. At some point in our adult lives, we should all realize we’ve reached the age limit on this app. You should be embarrassed if you’re 26 and still asking people for their Snapchat instead of their phone number.

35. You’re an asshole if you post answers to Wordle, Connections or any New York Times game before the day is over. Your “SPOILER ALERT” tweet preceding a screenshot of the answer isn’t enough.

36. Don’t film people making your food at Chipotle. Would you want a random stranger filming you while you sit at your work desk? Would you even want them holding their phones up and pretending to record you? It’s not worth the three extra pieces of steak. Just get your food and be normal.

37. No snitch-tagging. Sure, subtweeting is annoying and passive-aggressive behavior, but ultimately, if the original poster wanted to speak directly to someone, they would have tagged them. Tagging them in the replies so they’ll see and, presumably, start a fight just makes you a snitch. This is between them, not you. Best not get involved.

38. The 100-photo Facebook album is dead. There’s no reason to ever post more than 10 photos at a time. The way we consume social media has changed, and we no longer have the time or the patience to click through hundreds of vacation photos or snaps from your cousin’s wedding. Keep it to 10. Share the rest with interested parties privately via email.

39. Don’t feel pressured to follow your friends on TikTok. The app is a place for many people to scroll unencumbered, and no one wants to feel judged for following an account called “elitecringe69.” Let lurkers lurk in peace, please.

40. LinkedIn isn’t for sharing self-righteous parables. At some point, LinkedIn became a place for Web3-obsessed influencers and workday lurkers. It is an absolutely insufferable website — and almost certainly beyond saving. But it’s worth a try anyway. Networking platforms are not the place to write a 10-paragraph essay (each paragraph somehow just a single sentence) about how you realized your job at Goldman wasn’t for you so you started an overnight oats company.

41. Don’t join an online mob before you know the full story. Context can be complicated. Case in point: Michigan man Corey Harris recently went the Twitter equivalent of double-platinum when a video of him joining a virtual court appointment while driving with a suspended license hit timelines across the world. At first, he was dubbed the stupidest person ever. A day later, he was touted as the martyr of a broken justice system, as public records revealed that his suspension should have been lifted two years ago. What most people who excoriated or eulogized him didn’t know? As it turned out, Harris had concealed the fact that he had never actually possessed a driver’s license. Now, the clashing online factions are finding common ground in chastising Harris and mocking the Michigan DMV, leaving Twitter to end the discussion as it started: none the wiser.

42. Prank videos aren’t as funny as you think they are, especially relationship pranks. Every so often, trending prank videos are harmless and silly. But most of the time, someone pranking their partner in an effort to make them look stupid or humiliated then posting it online with the hopes it goes viral is shitty. Or the videos just look incredibly staged and come off really cringey.

43.  If you’re close enough with someone to have their phone number, you should text them happy birthday (or hell, even call them!) instead of posting “Happy birthday” on their Facebook wall. The Facebook “happy birthday” is for distant relatives, friends-of-friends and that person you met at a party in college and then never talked to again. It’s impersonal and feels weirdly performative. Your real friends deserve a birthday greeting that’s for their eyes (or ears) only.

44. Don’t use dating apps to find friends. Dating apps are for dating. Use a friend-specific tool (or other methods) to secure new buddies.

45. Normalize double texting, especially when you’ve just started going out. Over-communicating — or just being clear on what plans are and where you stand with each other — in the early stages of a relationship has become taboo, probably because people don’t want to come off as overbearing or clingy. But in reality, there’s nothing more pathetic than being a bad communicator. Normalize communicating a normal amount! If you need to make plans with someone and they’re being flaky, double texting is the right thing to do.

46. On the other hand, stop getting so upset about people not replying fast, especially friends and family. There’s a difference between your friend being a bad texter and your situationship ghosting you after three months. Everyone is so chronically online these days that it can feel exhausting to be at the mercy of your phone’s Messages app. If you see someone online and they haven’t answered your message, maybe they just haven’t seen it or are going to respond in a bit. I do this with friends and family who text me during the work day. I don’t always respond until later. If I do forget, they kindly let me know and I respond.

47. But if they haven’t responded to your DMs…maybe stop DMing them. If you’re having a conversation with yourself, just throw in the towel.

48. Don’t post dating app profiles/private conversations online. Imagine your private Hinge messages are posted on the internet. That’d probably be pretty jarring, right? Unfortunately, sharing screenshots of people’s dating profiles and DMs is a pretty common practice now across social platforms. Sure, we’ve all come across some kooky stuff on dating apps, but save those screenshots for your private group chat. No need to publicly shame and embarrass an unsuspecting stranger for clout.

49. Stop farming your dates for content. Unless someone you hooked up with stole a pair of your designer shoes or, in more serious cases, exhibited abusive behavior on a date, there’s no need to TikTok the post-date debrief. Again, leave it for the group chat or drinks with friends. Putting your Hinge date on blast for complaining about the price of a cheeseburger is unnecessary and borderline cruel. First dates are nerve-racking! Allow people privacy and grace.

Alice E. Marwick, a social media scholar, doesn’t see modern birth announcements as a huge privacy risk. You know the ones: new parents opening up Instagram or Facebook and uploading what appears to be a lot of sensitive information, ready for the scraping, from full name to birth date to measurements and hospital photos. “The reality is that most of that information is already out there about us, from data brokers and other types of big databases, where you can get information like that on most people,” she says. 

Marwick, an associate professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says there’s a more important factor to consider when people are about to bring new social media fodder into the world: what the child wants. “There are lots of kids that, once they realize their parents post lots of information about them online, they want some control over that,” she says. Marwick has two little kids of her own and posts about them, but she admits there may come a day when they want photos, videos and other content taken down. “You can’t get defensive, because they are people,” she adds, “and people should have the right to have control over their personal information.”

Before you start turning your feed into a baby scrapbook, think over the implications with your spouse, partner or yourself. “Know what your own comfort level is, reassess as your kids get older, keep the lines of communication open, and don’t get defensive if one day your teenage kid comes to you and asks to delete the 10-year-old picture on your Instagram,” she says. “You can always print it out and put it in a photo album.” — Alex Lauer

51. Don’t create a social media account for your unborn child. Yes, people do that. No, we’re not buying the excuse that it’s so you can share photos with family.

56. Always do a random drawing when offloading stuff in your local Buy Nothing group. If you list your hand-me-downs as FCFS (first come, first served), there’s a high probability all the good junk will be swiped by the small handful of people who watch those pages 24/7. Spread the love, and the extra produce from your garden.

57. Don’t be that athlete on Strava. If Strava has a cardinal sin, it’s feigned nonchalance. There is absolutely no reason to run eight miles or log sprint intervals on the bike and then post it under the headline “Recovery Day,” “Shakeout” or “Light Work.” You will always earn your followers’ appreciation — and their genuine kudos — for acknowledging when a workout kicked your ass. To foster even more goodwill on the platform, I would recommend dishing out kudos like candy, posting photos of your runs (it’s a fun and unexpected place for content), and making sure your workouts from other apps or activity trackers (Apple Watch, Peloton, Zwift, etc.) aren’t auto-populating all the time, which will clog up other people’s feeds.

58. Try to behave on Goodreads. Don’t torpedo a book. If you finish a book and feel confused, unsatisfied or pissed off, consider dissecting why it wasn’t your cup of tea in a gentler, more thought-provoking way. (There’s an art to the negative review!) Be better than the review-bomber.

59. Donate to Wikipedia. Only 2% of readers donate. But 100% of us have used the website in a pinch. (And some of swan-dive into Wiki rabbit holes on the regular.) Consider throwing those editors a few bucks. Or just buy this sick windbreaker.

For you, the person typing up a one-star review festooned with exclamation marks, there’s no difference between panning a McDonald’s and a locally owned restaurant. Yet the difference in effect for these businesses couldn’t be more stark. For a large company, one bad review is a drop in the bucket. For a small business, it could lead to a significant drop in sales — or it could be a death sentence.

Let’s say you walk into a store, an employee is rude to you, then you go online and write a takedown of them. If that store is a Target, your review doesn’t matter. That store will likely already have dozens, if not hundreds, of reviews on all sorts of platforms: Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. And if it doesn’t, the company has a budget to deal with its low rating — they’ll juice their numbers back to acceptable levels. If that store is a small business, they may only have a handful of online reviews, or none at all. Now whenever someone searches for that store, they’ll be much less likely to support the business because the rating is so low — even though the rating is being dragged down by your single experience. 

Small businesses have always had a difficult time competing with larger companies for talent, but this is especially the case in today’s economy where inflation is leading to wage growth that can often be burdensome for the locally owned businesses and mom-and-pop shops that are essential to the fabric of any city. So if you don’t get the best customer service from an employee or owner, or some other inconvenience strikes — longer waits, higher prices, low on product — keep your review to yourself, at least on the first visit. If the business really isn’t up to snuff, it’ll adapt or die eventually. But big box stores and chains already have the upper hand, so there’s no need to accelerate the demise of small businesses with spontaneous smears plastered online forever. — Alex Lauer

61. If you hire a self-employed or gig worker for a job (handyman, photographer, exterminator) and they knock it out of the park, take the time to leave them a positive review. If they’re hustling for one-off jobs like that, they likely don’t have time to manage their online presence. Your five stars here will mean a lot more than the five-star review for that junk you just ordered on Amazon.

62. Support the hell out of your friends online. Like, upvote, thumbs up, share, rate, save and positively review the pursuits of folks you know and care about, from your college buddy with a burgeoning podcast career to your cousin’s iffy TikTok standup. It doesn’t matter if it’s particularly interesting, or even good; it’ll mean the world to them and requires almost nothing on your end.

63. Don’t comment on a recipe asking if you can substitute a main ingredient. If you don’t have squash, lentils or herbs to make a squash, lentil and herb soup — then don’t make it. There are so many food content creators out there who create recipes for specific dietary needs, so find them.

64. Don’t rate or review a product if you haven’t tried it. A comment that reads “I haven’t used it yet but seems great” is not at all helpful, and it unnecessarily inflates the product rating. And if you’re an influencer leaving a false review just to get paid, shame on you 10 times more.

65. Make a point to leave reviews for things you love, too. Most people default to reviewing products, restaurants, stores and companies when they want to trash them, but positive reviews are equally, if not more, valuable — particularly to small businesses.

66. Don’t be the person who refuses to download Venmo. Asking for cash is fine, but if you find yourself requesting CashApp or ApplePay in 2024, it’s time to start re-evaluating your home screen.

73. Your online shop doesn’t need to be impressive. If you’re selling (or buying) clothing online — via sites like eBay, Depop or Poshmark — you don’t have to be one of those inspired sellers with special wrapping paper and lightning-fast delivery times. Those expectations might intimidate people from participating in the secondhand economy, which isn’t helpful. It’s enough just to thank buyers for their purchase, pack it clean and folded, and get it delivered within a week or so.

74. Stop buying large quantities of a limited-edition product just because you can. Sometimes a person simply wants a pair of sneakers but can’t buy them at retail price because some asshole is snatching them all up and reselling them for a premium. If people (or bots) can’t break the habit, maybe it’s time for websites to enforce more maximums.

75. Tip your grocery delivery person. Unlike restaurant employees, they may be getting a salary, but there’s still a price to pay for someone else navigating the store crowds and hauling your groceries to you. If you’re happy with your grocery delivery service (and even if you aren’t once in a while), make sure you’re properly tipping the person bringing those bags to you.

76. Don’t assume that good branding makes for a superior product. You can’t always judge a business by its font. With the onslaught of so many Millennial-focused direct-to-consumer brands, don’t let a pretty face coerce you into buying something that’s inferior just because you see it plastered all over your Instagram. Being a smart consumer might just affect you, but treat your own digital wallet with a little respect.

77. If you’re hosting an event, don’t request money after the fact and leave people feeling surprised and wishing they hadn’t been there. If you want friends and family to contribute financially to your dinner party or bridal shower, let everyone know ahead of time and agree on a price that everyone is comfortable with. Or just cover the costs yourself. There’s nothing worse than finding out you owe someone money that you had no intention of spending in the first place.

You’ve heard about how dangerous American roads were during the pandemic. In 2021, 42,939 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes, a 16-year high. The number remains disturbingly large to this day: 40,990 for 2023, per a NHTSA estimate. Speeding was a big culprit, and while that reckless behavior has gone down, another has not. 

“We’re definitely not in a good place with distracted driving,” says Matt Fiorentino, VP of marketing at Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which tracks driving behavior through devices, including as part of usage-based insurance programs. “From 2020 to 2023, distracted driving has increased by 17.8%…and even before the pandemic it wasn’t good, so that shouldn’t be the baseline.”

That statistic comes from CMT’s 2024 report on the state of road risk, which has a number of other distressing takeaways. There’s the percentage of time drivers handle their phones while going over 50 mph, which has gone up every year since 2020. There’s also an analysis of drivers who crashed, which shows 34% of them used their phones in the minute before impact. Maybe most surprising is that drivers freely admit to scrolling, swiping and tapping while driving. In one CMT survey, 24% of drivers admitted to using Instagram while behind the wheel. 

According to Fiorentino, “it’s no surprise” that so many people use Instagram while driving. The app is built to be addictive, as are all social media platforms and the devices we use to access them. If we’re all absentmindedly reaching for our phones at home, work and school, why would it be any different in the car? Tech companies aren’t going to make their products less addictive, so turn on your Do Not Disturb While Driving feature and recognize that, if you do check your phone while driving, you’re risking adding another few numbers to the NHTSA’s grisly tally. — Alex Lauer

79. Stop listening to music, movies, social media or anything else out loud in public. Just because you can stream music and TV anywhere on earth doesn’t mean everyone else wants to hear it. It might be the most annoying thing you can do in a crowded place, and it also seems to be becoming more prevalent, especially on airplanes and public transportation. For the love of god, put headphones in or sit in silence.

80. On the flip side, take out your headphones when other people are talking to you. These days, it’s not uncommon to see people dining or hanging with their friends with headphones in. Take them out and listen to others for a second.

81. If you’re making a man-on-the-street video, take “no” for an answer graciously. Unless you’re Billy Eichner.

According to Deanna Castro, a longtime flight attendant for a major carrier and the founder of Future Flight Attendant, a career center for aspiring flight attendants, there is a time and a place for this: when a passenger is doing something illegal or otherwise totally egregious. Generally speaking, however, filming other passengers can also escalate a bad situation. Furthermore, crew members often end up as collateral in such situations, and they deserve some consideration.

“Imagine if someone invaded your workplace and started taking photos and videos of you without your permission,” Castro posits. “This is the stark reality for many flight attendants, a clear invasion of their privacy that leaves them feeling exposed and unprotected.” It’s not just a matter of privacy, either, she adds — it’s a security issue. “Many flight attendants are required to wear their name tags on their uniforms, making them easy targets for potential stalkers. These individuals can use a photo to identify a flight attendant and their name tag, posing a serious threat to their safety.”

She points out that not all that long ago, it was actually against the rules to take photos and videos of crew members — an effort that was meant to protect both their privacy and safety — and it’s a policy that should be reconsidered in today’s digital age. “Until there are more rules in place, I’d love to see people practice a bit of photo etiquette: If you take a photograph, ask permission from a customer or crew member,” she says. “Everyone is entitled to some privacy. When photographing or videoing a disturbance, be safe, don’t get in the way and be ethical [if] sharing.” — Lindsay Rogers

83. Be aware that NSFW content is also NSF the subway, airplane, bus, library and other public spaces. We can see your screen! Incognito mode isn’t hiding anything.

84. Always remember: Not everyone spends as much time online as you.

Contributors: Hanna Agro, Aaron Cohen, Amanda Gabriele, Tanner Garrity, Alex Lauer, Logan Mahan, Kirk Miller, Lindsay Rogers, Paolo Sandoval, Joanna Sommer and Bonnie Stiernberg