I Have a Wee Question of Digital Courtesy


Nick Bilton writes today about various things that were once polite, but in an increasingly digital age have become inconsiderate. For example:

Then there is voice mail, another impolite way of trying to connect with someone. Think of how long it takes to access your voice mail and listen to one of those long-winded messages. “Hi, this is so-and-so….” In text messages, you don’t have to declare who you are, or even say hello. E-mail, too, leaves something to be desired, with subject lines and “hi” and “bye,” because the communication could happen faster by text. And then there are the worst offenders of all: those who leave a voice mail message and then e-mail to tell you they left a voice mail message.

My father learned this lesson last year after leaving me a dozen voice mail messages, none of which I listened to. Exasperated, he called my sister to complain that I never returned his calls. “Why are you leaving him voice mails?” my sister asked. “No one listens to voice mail anymore. Just text him.”

I know it’s ancient news that all the young ‘uns have abandoned voice mail. Why, it can take 20 or 30 seconds to listen to a single message! Who’s got time for that kind of nonsense when there are Facebook timelines to update and Foursquare venues to check in to?

But can I turn this around? If you refuse to listen to voice mail, wouldn’t it be polite to make that clear, either by turning off your voice mail box so that callers can’t leave you messages, or by recording an outgoing message that tells callers they’d better text or email if they really want to get hold of you? If your outgoing message says “Hi, leave a message and I’ll call you back,” is it really unreasonable for someone to leave a message and expect you to call back?

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