The Future of Online Etiquette Is Already Here—It’s Just Unevenly Distributed

As we monitor how the digital era influences things like music, art, and more, a very important thing it influences is simply communication. Some of this is due to generation, some due to how different demographics use social media. Some people use Twitter as a way to communicate just as commonly as a text, while others think voicemails are still relevant. How you reacted to that last sentence says plenty about your idea of online etiquette and social media use. Hit the jump to for an interesting article on the shift and evolution of communication as we move into the future.

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As anyone who has missed an important e-mail knows by now, modern communications etiquette represents a minefield of unspoken expectations and potential anxiety-inducing behavior. If you need further proof, all you have to do is look at some of the responses to a recent blog post by New York Times writer Nick Bilton about his approach to e-mail, voice mail, and texting: Some reacted with distaste bordering on horror, while others cheered his take on the topic. Part of the problem is that different users look at these tools differently—and in some cases, have wildly different views of what is appropriate and what isn’t.

For example, Bilton says his father insists on leaving him voice mail messages but the NYT writer never listens to them. His frustrated parent eventually called his sister to complain; she told their father to text him instead. Bilton adds that his mother has progressed to the point where they communicate mostly through Twitter. Is this a son helping his parents adapt, or is he rudely refusing to meet them on their own turf? Many saw it as the latter:

@nickbilton: “I force my parents to communicate with me over Twitter, because I can’t be bothered with phone calls” bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/eti…
felix salmon (@felixsalmon) Mar. 10

Author Ian Leslie noted in a response on his own blog that Bilton’s description of what’s wrong with modern communication—whether it’s voice mail or texting or Twitter—and his relationship with his parents display a misunderstanding of what communication is for. If you look at these channels as pure information delivery, Leslie says, they are riddled with problems. If you see them as a way of socializing with others who are close to us, they look completely different: “The problem here isn’t just that Bilton unintentionally comes off as rather rude. … his argument betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of communication. Writing about computers a lot, he assumes communication is all about the transfer of information from one hard drive to another. That being so, the more efficient the transfer is, the better.”

I think a larger problem Bilton touches on, but doesn’t address directly, is that we have more competing forms of communication available to us than ever before. Not only are different people at different stages in their evolution from one to the other, they use them for very different purposes. So for Bilton’s dad, voice mail is a great way to pass on important information, but Nick prefers the real-time nature of texting or Twitter messaging.

The NYT blogger mentions how a whole new kind of etiquette had to be developed around the telephone—and how debate raged over the appropriate way to answer one. (Alexander Graham Bell preferred the term “Ahoy!”—which just reinforces why we shouldn’t let the inventors of things decide how we use them.) At least people in the 1920s had only one new form of communication to figure out; we have e-mail, voice mail, texting, Facebook (FB) messaging, Twitter, and more.

It gets worse when the person you are trying to correspond with uses all these tools: I’ve tried to contact someone I know fairly well by e-mail, voice mail, text message, Twitter direct messaging, and everything short of smoke signals, and I never know from one day to the next which of those methods (if any) are going to work. We have more ways than ever to communicate, but sometimes that just means more ways to miss each other.

In a lot of cases, I think the problem boils down to one of asynchronous vs. synchronous behavior and expectations. Part of the reason why many people (particularly geeks) dislike talking on the phone is… [Read Full Article Here]

[Source: Businessweek]

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