Thursday, January 3, 2013

Modern Communication Etiquette

Dear Readers,

I recently had this question come through my inbox:

Dear Jocelyn,
I asked my cousin via text if I could contribute nachos to her birthday party for 75 guests, she has not responded. I even sent another text asking is that a no to the nachos? No reply. I am guessing that for whatever reason she does not want the nachos which is completely fine, I still feel like she should at least reply with a no thank you or something rather than just ignore. Am I being a jerk for expecting a reply? I just find it rude.
-Nachos

My answer is a simple one — call her! Texts get lost, people are busy, or some people are just plain rude and don't respond. Either way, this can be fixed with a simple phone call.

The reason I am writing about it like this is I wanted to expand on this. Modern communication presents new challenges for etiquette. This is always true of new technology. I found it interesting when Miss Manners told her gentle readers (when asked of the appropriate ESA of asking for a date via text) that texting is a new form of communication and is acceptable to use. She reminded them that when the telephone came out, it was considered odd for a man to request a date over the phone instead of in person. (Something that is considered perfectly appropriate now.) So new technology always presents new ways for people to be kind and rude, to be closer or more distant, more efficient or to procrastinate.

I would like to recommend this suggestion for new technology, whether it be text or email or Facebook:

Don't let technology make you passive. It is easier to jot off a quick email or text than to call or write. While this is much appreciated, and makes communication more efficient, it also allows people to passively communicate. Instead of a conversation where you can be (mostly) sure the person is listening and understanding you, email or text simply allows you to essentially tape a note to the person's door. You can't be sure they received it, whether they are too busy to respond, or if they are choosing to ignore it. While it may be scarier to talk to someone face to face (or ear to ear on the phone), it is also much more rewarding.

Hope this helps, Nachos.
-Jocelyn