Social networking used to be so simple, a forum to say or discuss what’s on your mind and meet others who are on the same page. social networkingHowever as more people get on the bandwagon — students, moms, bosses, clients, recruiters, HR departments — the rules are changing and like most rules you ignore them at your peril.

Should you Super Poke a colleague on Facebook or write a blow-by-blow account of Friday night’s pub crawl on their wall? What’s the right way to respond to unkind comments on your blog? Do virtual cards for birthdays and other personal events count or do you have suck up and make a trip the card store and — gasp! — the post office for the occasion?

Even Debretts, Great Britain’s venerable “authority on all matters etiquette, taste and achievement,” has weighed in on etiquette for the social media generation:

  1. You don’t have to make friends with people you don’t know. Think before you poke.
  2. Wait 24 hours before accepting or removing someone as a friend. The delay will help you gather your thoughts.
  3. Birthdays, engagements and weddings are not “virtual” events. Always send cards or phone friends when there is an important event.
  4. Think before posting a friend’s photo what you would feel like if it was you.
  5. Think carefully about your profile picture. Would you want it to be appearing in your local newspaper?

Blogher.com’s recent post on social media manners polled their readers and came up with more:

  1. Be Nice.
  2. Be open & honest.
  3. Be respectful of the writer and the community.
  4. Respect the relationship.
  5. Don’t rant -> always be respectful.
  6. Social media implies and requires civility.
  7. If you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, don’t say it online.
  8. Courtesy matters.
  9. Remember what your mama taught you: Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t bully. Play nicely together.

And LifeHack.com has posted a few tips too:

  1. Give attention if you want attention.
  2. Donโ€™t overwhelm your connections.
  3. Be as clear as possible.
  4. Keep private information private.
  5. Donโ€™t contribute to information overload.
  6. Avoid anonymity.

But they’re all seemingly common sense so what’s the big deal? Simple: the Web has a long memory and a lot of people seem to forget that.

So if you’re using a blog or Twitter or Facebook or MySpace or Mebo or countless other sites/services for social, professional or business networking — and who isn’t these days — paying attention to what you say/write/post and how you say or illustrate it can make or break your next deal, contract, job or relationship. Remember: the gig you save may be your own.