A Progressive Christian Blog

Ever Changing Cyber Etiquette

Text-er? Email-er? FB-er? Phone-er?

Text-er? Email-er? FB-er? Phone-er?

Potential Conversation in 2001

Bro: “Dude, did you get my message?”

Dude: “What message, bro?”

Bro: “The message I left on your voicemail?”

Dude: “Home or cell?”

Bro: “Home, dude.”

Dude: “Bro, we don’t really use that phone anymore.”

Potential Conversation in 2007

Dude: “Bro, what’s up.. you called?”

Bro: “yeah dude, I left a voicemail, didn’t you get it?”

Dude: “eh, I just saw I had a missed call… I don’t really check my voicemail much.”

Potential Conversation in 2008

Bro: “Dude, why haven’t you called me back… I hit you up like twice yesterday…”

Dude: “oh, sorry bro… you should’ve texted me. I don’t really look at my calls anymore.”

Potential Conversation in 2009

Bro: “Dude, are you coming tonight?”

Dude: “Coming where, bro?”

Bro: “to the movies with us… didn’t you get my texts?”

Dude: “ah, sorry bro… didn’t check my texts today. You should’ve left me a message on FaceBook…”

I’m guessing, minus the “dude” and “bro” language, you’ve probably had a similar conversation with someone over the past few years. It seems that with the ever changing culture of social networking and communication, the quote-un-quote “etiquette” that goes along with communication is having a hard time keeping up.

I noticed this clearly in an experience I had last week with a friend.

After about 3 interactions (or maybe “failed” interactions) through texting and attempting to comment on Facebook, he finally called me out and just said “dude, I don’t check my actual facebook page… try calling sometime. i think you’d come off a little less abrasive.”

Confused, I called him and asked what he meant, and found out that: a) sarcasm doesn’t always communicate in the virtual world, b) I was misinformed about how frequent this person checked Facebook (turns out he updates via Twitter… so while he has multiple “status updates” a day, it’s almost always apart from actually logging on to Facebook), and c) I had, unintentionally, imposed expectations on this friend based on interactions with other friends.

So what I’m finding is that it is important to be aware of your own expectations towards others when communicating with them virtually. One friend may be an uber-texter… you know the type. Before you even hit the ‘home’ button after pushing send, you’ve already got a reply back. Or another friend may just love the phone… you send an email with a question, and five minutes later your phone is blowing up. Meanwhile, you have the “always have a Facebook window open” friend, who lives and dies by the status updates and comments. And soon you begin to make mental checklists of who communicates how, and by what speed they do so. This can become both helpful and efficient most of the time.

The problem comes when either: a) you don’t actually KNOW the preferred communication habits of particular friend, or b) you get them mixed up or confused. And soon you begin to wonder why JOE hasn’t texted you back, why JILL can’t seem to take five minutes to reply to your email, how long your FB comment/question on TODD’S wall will remain unattended to, and if SUE must have lost her job and can’t afford her phone anymore because she hasn’t returned your call in days.

As wonderful and efficient as all our methods of communication in the 21st century are, they certainly can lead to inter-relational frustration at times if we are not careful. So I, for one, am going to try and make a better effort to understand how my friends and family communicate best, and keep that in mind if an “emailer” doesn’t respond to my text right away, or a “phoner” leaves my Facebook comment unanswered for days.

What about you? Have you ran in to similar problems? And what type of virtual communicator are you, and do your friends know that?


5 Responses to “Ever Changing Cyber Etiquette”

  1. Claire

    I have had this issue with IM. Darned if I don’t leave that thing on and walk away all the time. Then I get complaints via fb, text, email, and voicemail. Odd that people have the impression that I live on the other end of a communication device.

    Don’t really know if the problem is with knowing a person’s communication preference. Possibly, it’s with our own expectation; our own perceived importance in that person’s life; our own sense of timing versus theirs. Patience is a lost art.

    You know when you are on the freeway and someone is tailgating you? You slow down in response? I don’t know why this gives me joy, but in a warped way, it does. Sometimes I feel that way about communication.

    • colbymartin

      yeah claire, i think you may be right that sometimes our own expectations or perceived importance may be the problem. but where do we get these expectations? some of them, i argue, are created by those in our life who are super fast returners of texts/emails/voicemails, etc… and then we carry over those expectations and unfairly apply them to other people (at least, that’s the case in some of my experiences). patience, most certainly, is a lost art (and undervalued, and under-appreciated). i love your analogy to slow-driving… never thought about that with communication! hilarious…

  2. Kathy

    I have many thoughts on our ways of communicating today (as I’m sure does not surprise you, Colby!). Let’s suffice it to say that although our new ways of communication are efficient, as long as you know which way is best (as you noted), I see the ART of communication in a decline. Does no one know how to have a good face-to-face conversation, let alone write a letter with a pen and paper?

    I will never forget reading letters that my great-great grandfather wrote to his daughter. These were ordinary, I’m sure, by their standards, but I found them to be beautiful. Leagues beyond “how R U? IDK.”

    A sad moment in the life of this mother (and yes, a former English teacher) was when I heard these words from my child – “I’d rather text. It’s easier than actually talking to someone. It’s quicker.” Do we realize what we’re giving up for convenience sake? I think not…

    • colbymartin

      sadly, no… i don’t think we DO realize what we’re giving up for the sake of convenience.
      rather, i should say, i don’t think the young-generation does. the older generations (of which i’m barely a part of, and you would qualify for) can remember a time when “pen to paper” was significant and meaningful. phone calls were only used if you couldn’t actually get an answer at your neighbors door. THAT generation(s) certainly shall mourn our new postmodern ways of communicating. but the youth must not be blamed, in part, for not stopping and considering what we’re giving up for the sake of convenience, because they don’t know any other way. so maybe the question to ask, is, “is there value in trying to teach our children the value of personal interaction and face-to-face communication?” or, do we find new and creative ways forward as to how we might embrace current trends of communication and utilize them to build meaningful relationships?

      • Kathy

        First of all, thanks for calling me “old”! (said with a grin)

        Secondly, I don’t think that it’s an “either/or” question. The question is, “How do we do both?” As a former English teacher, it IS hard to teach children how to communicate effectively through writing and speaking, especially in the areas of spelling and handwriting – “Why do I need to learn to spell? There’s always spellcheck! And why do I need to learn cursive? I’m just going to type everything!” But I’ve had many a student come to me after entering college, thanking me for teaching them how to reason, organize their thoughts, and communicate them persuasively. Not only does that knowledge assist them in their classes, but let’s admit it, people seem more intelligent when they have a wide vocabulary, can spell correctly, and form coherent sentences.

        I think that having a well-rounded education (old-school and current trends) makes a person more successful in life, generally speaking. If a guy can tweet me, but he can’t string three complete sentences together, I’m not as likely to trust him with my business.

        Don’t even get me started about math without calculators!

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