New Social Expectations?

Public Service Announcement: Emails and Texts vs Blogs, Articles, and Social Media Posts

Does this really need to be said? I’ve run across this problem so many times over the last several years and it’s really starting to get on my nerves how few people have any communication skills whatsoever. We live in a communication filled world, right? Yes, it has changed dramatically over the last ten years but there are still basic rules. Aren’t there? Am I the only one that sees them? Does no one else have any expectations of response in certain situations? Sometimes it seems that even in person the rules have changed. I was sitting at my table at a conference and when people walked by and looked at my literature, I looked at them, smiled, and pointed them to my card and talked about my mission. Rarely did anyone look up at me, some just nodded and walked away, some just walked away as if I was not there. What’s going on? But I digress.

My recent issue is online communication. The internet has opened up the world for us to virtually move in. Yet we refuse to connect with each other. I write messages to people and they don’t respond. And these aren’t “cold calls”. These are people that have asked me a question and then not responded to the answer. I cannot imagine doing this at an in-person meeting, but then it has happened to me at meetings, too!

I’ve decided to write down my own expectations in the hopes of reaching out to the world and seeing if anyone else out there feels the same way. Here we go.

If someone is talking to you in the physical world, look at them, listen, and respond out loud. A simple “thank you” is usually good. A smile or pleasant look is helpful as well. I still can’t believe that I have to actually say that.

But then I wonder, “Do people think that online communication is somehow different than “real life” communication?” It really isn’t. We have the same categories and rules for written communication online as we do in the physical world of snail mail.

Blogs, Articles, and Social Media posts don’t need to be responded to unless you feel compelled to do so. It’s just like a newspaper/magazine article. You wouldn’t necessarily respond to the author or publisher unless you felt very strongly and then maybe you’d write a letter to them. Mostly we would probably discuss or share it amongst the people around us. Online, it’s the same thing. The “comment” section of an article is really just a quick way to respond to the author or publisher, not to have a conversation with strangers. Heated conversations with strangers about a deep or personal subject rarely get anywhere and usually just cause deeper rifts between the participants.

Emails and Texts are the same as phone calls and similar to personal letters, that is unless it is a newsletter or ad. Those come in the snail mail too and we don’t respond to them, we use them. But an email or a text from an individual is the same as them writing you a letter or calling. Respond as if you are in a conversation. Of course, email should be treated the same as snail mail. When you got a letter from your friend, you knew that she was waiting for a letter from you in response. The next chance you got, you wrote back, and so on until the conversation was obviously over. Email is so much quicker and easier. The same goes for emails from businesses that you have contacted for help. There is another person waiting for a response.

Texts are the same as phone calls but a tad more polite. In a text, you don’t need to bother your friend in the middle of a movie or dinner. They can hear the alert and answer it at their convenience but there is the general expectation of a return message, just like if I called your house and left a message on your answering machine. It’s quick and easy to use text the same way you’d use a call. I text. You answer when convenient. We go back and forth and then end the conversation with a “talk to you later”, “gotta run”, or “thanks for getting back to me”. You don’t just leave the conversation hanging. You wouldn’t do it on the phone, so why do you do it in a text?

I had started to think the people are just getting more and more rude over the past ten years but now I’m starting to question that? Do we just have a different set of social rules now and I haven’t gotten the memo? Or are is the media in which we communicate changing so fast that we haven’t built up any social rules about them yet? We’re all floundering around trying to figure it out, offending some people in the process, and putting up walls between us because we just aren’t all working with the same set of expectations. It feels like we are all from different worlds at a space age United Nations type meeting. Everyone has their own set of rules and no one realizes that everyone else’s rules are different from theirs.

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