Should Etiquette Change as Technology Evolves?

Nick Bilton from The New York Times recently wrote about the evolution of etiquette in the digital world, calling on people to cut out “time-wasting forms of communication” like voicemail and “thank you” emails and easily Googled questions.

I can see where he’s coming from with voicemail. Yes, it still exists in case you forgot. It took my family 100s of missed VMs to realize I would always answer a text. I’ve gotten a bit better with visual VM on my iPhone. But on any other phone I’ve had, a voicemail could sit in my inbox for weeks. I would usually only listen to them once the message was completely irrelevant.

Personally, I hate calling people in general. There is so much effort put into the hellos and the setup. I would prefer just googling a store’s hours, as opposed to calling. But I understand that not everyone feels that way. This is where my personal beliefs on digital etiquette stray from the Times.

Most people text more than they actually talk, so, it’s easy to forget that on the receiving end of that screen is a person. Our interactions are getting simpler and less formal, but that doesn’t mean our patience should get shorter. I’ve broken down how I tackle etiquette in the cyber-sphere.

“Let Me Google That for You”

Bilton references an instance where he asked a friend a question and they responded with a link to the oh-so-obnoxious “Let Me Google That For You.” If you are unfamiliar with the site, well, you could Google it, but I’m not that mean.

Say a friend asks, “What’s the weather like?” You go to the site, type in the question and it generates a link for your friend. When they click it, a video of sorts appears of you Googling the question for them or basically you saying, “Hey, idiot, stop wasting my time.” (In that friend’s defense, the weather reports can be deceiving and maybe they just wanted a real life opinion of what the air felt like.)

Sure, you might get tons of LOLs sending that to your bro, but please refrain. Yeah, it’s annoying to send someone a phone number or directions they could’ve looked up on his or her own. But that shouldn’t matter once they’ve asked you. Try not to develop bad habits with your friends that could potentially influence the way you act in professional settings.

Mastering The Kind Email

Email etiquette is something I take very seriously – or, as my sister might argue, too seriously. I insist on signing all of my emails with a “Thanks, Tori” or “Best, Tori”. Maybe that isn’t always necessary when you are close with the recipient, but it’s good practice. There will come a time when you want something and knowing how to craft a kindly worded email can get you very far.

Earlier this year, I called to cancel a gym membership. They made this big fuss on the phone about needing me to come down and meet with the sales team and fill out paperwork. In other words, they were betting I was too lazy or easily shamed into keeping that membership. (Both things are sort of true.)

Luckily, I had a skill they weren’t expecting. I asked for the email of their sales team and sent a polite email acknowledging their policy, explaining my situation and asking them to make an exception. I made sure to thank them for their time and sign the email with all my contact details. Within minutes I had a reply from their sales manager saying the membership was cancelled. Was that so hard?

You can apply this technique to almost anything. You would not believe how rude people can be over email, so you stand out when you aren’t. People like the help nice people. It’s as simple as that. And after cancelling that membership, best believe I followed up with a thank you. Which leads me into my next point.

The “Thank You” Email

I don’t care how close you are to someone or how technology changes, you always say “thank you”. That’s how I was raised. If I do a favor for someone, I appreciate when they take the time to say thank you. I wouldn’t say I get angry when I don’t hear it…well, maybe I do.

Have you ever held the door open for a bunch of people and having them just walk on by like you aren’t there? I mean how rude is that? So why because a computer is involved should that nicety go out the window? It doesn’t take that much time to send or receive and it makes people feel appreciated.

Some Basic Principles To Live By

  • Don’t get snippy or sarcastic because your tone won’t translate
  • Do your own research before asking a question, and assume the person asking has done theirs
  • Always introduce yourself when emailing for the first time
  • Ask someone how their day is before asking for what you want
  • Only speak to your friends the way you would speak to your friends

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