Ever Changing Cyber Etiquette

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?


The ArtsColby Martin