Monday, March 25, 2013

Thank you? How Rude!

By Deborah Sharp

A New York Times columnist sparked an online skirmish about etiquette this month with a grumpy tirade against what he sees as digital time-wasters: 
Some people are so rude, wrote the Times' Nick Bilton. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says 'Thank you?' Who leaves a voice mail when you don't answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don't these people realize that they're wasting your time?

The column generated upwards of 600 comments, with the most negative reserved for how Bilton's apparently harried life plays out in his communication mandates to Mom and Dad: 
My father learned this lesson last year after leaving me a dozen voice mail messages, none of which I listened to, Bilton wrote. 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.' 

My mother realized this long ago. Now we communicate mostly through Twitter. . . 


One comment summed up what many readers seemed to be feeling: ''My heart breaks for this man's father.''

Count me as squarely in that commenter's camp. 

Even so, Bilton did make some good points about the perils of trying to communicate in our over-connected, over-wired world. I think there's a special place in hell for people who insist on texting me, even after I've repeatedly said I'd rather get an old-fashioned phone call or the dreaded email. My nieces and nephews, though, are about as likely to pick up a telephone as they are to motor down to the Western Union office in a Model T and send me a telegram. So I text. 

Loved U on Utube. LOL

Bilton is also irritated by people who ask questions easily answered on the Internet. The weather. Directions. If his column portends the end of a civil society. (Just kidding on that last one).

He interviewed another curmudgeon for the article, a man who happened to be an author. This guy carped about people who ask him via social media where they can buy his book, rather than simply turning to Google for that information. I don't know about you, but I'm HAPPY when somebody asks how to buy my book. No way would I snarkily reply with the link, which stands for Let Me Google That For You.  

How about you? What's your preferred communication mode? Do you send thank-you emails, or consider them time-wasters? Do you make your mother reach out and touch you through Twitter? 


Victoria Allman said...

My parents can barely use their answering machine. It is still a new-fangled thing for them. They don't have a cell-phone and only use Facebook to play games (and to post embarrassing comments on my page). I can guarantee Twitter is beyond them and texting is futile. I still get e-mails stating what they cooked for dinner as that is all they think e-mail is for.
So...unless the author can teach EVERYONE how to use the technology and buy them the proper gadgets, he is going to have to learn to listen to voicemail.

Julie Compton said...

The writer of the Times article sounds like a jerk, but I suspect that's what he was aiming for. After all, get people mad and you'll get more hits.
What's rude is that he expects everyone to use social media as he sees fit. Just as us older folks realize that we need to accept some of the younger folks' ways of doing things (I've finally decided it's better to get a thank you "note" from a niece or nephew by text than none at all), hot shots like this guy need to be a bit more accepting that not everyone even knows what Twitter and all the other stuff is, much less how to use it.

Lois Winston said...

I don't care how people communicate as long as they communicate. What ticks me off are people who ignore all forms of communication. They don't return phone calls, emails, or text messages, plus they never seem to answer their own phones. And is it too much to ask that these people take 5 seconds out of their busy lives to let you know they received your message? Hey, I'm busy, too, and I'd be less busy if I didn't have to spend so much of my day tracking people down because they don't respond to repeated calls, emails, or texts. Rant over.

Shannon Baker said...

Busted! I send "thank you" often, to acknowledge something without sending a whole comment someone else thinks they might have to respond to. And I'd rather email than text because I do better at a big keyboard than little screen. Now I know better. I hate to annoy people.

Unknown said...

I don't text, and have texting disabled on my phone. I realize that makes me a weirdo - well, you know, weirder than just being a writer makes me. Anyway, I just don't feel the need to be instantly connected to everything; really, most things can wait an hour or two, or (gasp!) a day or two! I think we should all use what works for us, and not take other people's preferences so seriously. And I agree - I LOVE to have people ask where they can find my books! Please - ask me! :-) Excellent post, Deborah.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Shame on him for treating his father that way! That's all I need to know about the writer. And what's wrong with saying "Thank you" --in any form?

Deborah Sharp said...

Thanks, everybody for the comments. Sorry to see none of the younger kids weighing in. Perhaps they're too busy? Victoria: I'm going to Facebook you about coffee.
Julie: Funny thing is, the Times guy is 37 ... not exactly a teenager. But yes, there was a HUGE response to his snarky piece from people who got mad.
Lois: AMEN. A pox on the ignorers, too busy to respond in any form.
Shannon: You can email ''thank you'' to me anytime. I won't be annoyed.
Sheila: How can I disable texting? We'll be weird together!
Kathleen: I know, since when did Thank you become an irritant. Grrrr!

Beth Groundwater said...

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm "all thumbs" when it comes to texting and leaves me a voice mail message on my cell phone. Even better, they call my husband's cell or my home phone to leave the message, because they know my cell phone is often turned off, a "useless brick," as my husband says, sitting in my purse.

I also hate instant messaging on the computer via Facebook or whatever and prefer email, so I can respond to it at my leisure.

Deborah Sharp said...

Beth, having you confess that you're an anti-text surprises me, as I think of you as very tech-forward. You hit it though, with the desire to respond AT YOUR LEISURE. That's what I think I hate the most about this instant everything: It's so pay-attention-to-me, NOW!