Monday, August 10, 2009

Following Electronic Etiquette

by Julia Buckley
Has anyone written a book yet about electronic etiquette? I've seen enough offensive behavior (and probably committed some) that this sort of book would be helpful, assuming people would read it and take it to heart. In any case I'll offer some of my own suggestions here to see if people have the same pet peeves about rudeness in the electronic age.

First, of course, is e-mail. Here are my common sense guidelines:

--If someone sends you an e-mail, you should answer it, even if it's to say that you don't have time to respond at length and you'll get back to them some other time.

--The exception to the above rule is if someone sends you one of those annoying chain letters that suggests you are bound for hell unless you send something to eighteen other people. You don't have to answer those OR forward them.

--Don't send chain letters.

--If someone forwards you something (an interesting article, let's say), don't immediately forward it back to THEM as though it was your idea in the first place. I've sent interesting things to family members only to have them bounced back with a note like "Julia, you have to read this. It's really interesting!" I knew it was, which is why I sent it in the first place. To appropriate my article this way is to admit that you didn't pay any attention to my original e-mail. This is an electronic slap in the face.

Now, on to cell phones.

--PLEASE don't ignore your children just because you own a cell phone. It doesn't give you permission to talk all day instead of parenting (or babysitting). I've seen dispirited little fellows in baseball caps dragging their bats behind them while they wait for their caregivers to get off the phone and play with them. It's one of the saddest sights in the world, as was my sighting of the little girl at a restaurant with her father who sat waiting, in vain, for him to finish his business call.

--If you MUST drive while talking on your cell phone, please still make an attempt to drive well. I've been nearly sideswiped by drivers who couldn't efficiently make a left turn because they were clutching their phone in one hand. They generally shrug at me as if to say, "What could I do? I was on the phone."

--If you MUST talk on your cell phone at the store, don't keep the cashier waiting while you finish your call. You're holding up the whole line, and you're being rude in a very universal sense.

--This one might be controversial: If you're talking to ME in person and your cell phone rings, you are not obligated to answer it and talk to that other person. We were talking first.

These really just scratch the surface of my list of complaints (apparently I am quite the curmudgeon), but I'm curious to know what peeves other people have, or if they share any of these.

Can we still be polite in the electronic age?

(art link here).


Jean said...

I'm with you on ALL of those -- including the in person vs cell call one.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who stand in front of a cashier jawing away on the phone. To me, it completely disrespects the cashier as a person trying to do their job -- which is to help the person on the phone in front of them -- AND anyone behind that person in line. I'm amazed at the general rudeness of people toward people who work in service industries in general. (Although I do tend to get a little curt after the 4th "May I help you?" when I'm shopping in a store -- it's not the employee's fault; it's their company's annoying policy that they are implementing, but it does get tiresome.)

Julia Buckley said...

Right you are, Jean. Some service people can be irritating, too, although in general they're just trying to do their jobs.

But here's my service pet peeve: the cashier who refuses to make eye contact with you when he or she hands you the bag. Have you encountered that? It seems to be some kind of trend.

My solution is to not take the bag until they look at me. :)

Lonnie Cruse said...

I am so with you on the email thing and probably guilty of a few of the cell phone things. But I hate to see someone in a restaurant chatting on his/her cell while the only other person at the table eats in silence. Grrr.

Susan D said...

Oh? They hand you the bag? After they've put your purchase in it? Lucky you.

How about the cashier who thinks that just because you've brought your own bag (now, thankfully, a requirement in Toronto) they are relieved of their obligation to put anything into it.

Susan D said...

Sorry, I got carried away with the cashier thing. Anyway, email etiquette:

If you hit reply to talk about something else, CHANGE THE SUBJECT LINE. (This should be too obvious to even mention, but apparently not.)

Julia Buckley said...

Susan, that's a good point. An even newer trend is filling the bag and then leaving it far out of your reach. As Lonnie says, Grrr.

Lonnie, I can't believe you are an abuser of any cell phone rules. :)

Julia Buckley said...

That's a good one, Susan, and a valid point, and now comes my confession: I don't always do it, and it's out of sheer laziness. Like it's hard to move my fingers for a second, right?

Sandra Parshall said...

Text messages are the biggest threat to traffic safety. The DC area transit authority has a zero-tolerance text messaging policy for train and bus drivers on the job, yet a week ago a passenger on a Metrobus snapped a photo -- with a cell phone, naturally -- of the driver writing a text message, her full attention on the phone in her hand, while the bus was in motion. The driver was fired immediately, as she should have been. There is simply no excuse for endangering other people -- and oneself -- this way.

Kaye Barley said...

Cell Phones.

Julia! You KNOW how I feel about these instruments of the devil! Do NOT even get me started.

Personal face to face conversations put on hold while people answer their phone?! ACK! How rude can you get?!

AND people so busy talking on their phones while they're shopping that they're running into people with their buggies?! OR standing still in the middle of the aisle talking and no one else can get through?!

Oh laws . . . .

Julia Buckley said...

Not only that, Kaye, but then they look at you as if you were rude to interrupt their phone call, or rude to listen to it. Quick fix for that . . . .

Sandra, I'm glad that bus driver was fired. There's an example of a camera phone being used for a just purpose.

Marilynne said...

You are right on with them all. I also don't like people who talk on their cell while at dinner or an event with me.

I even more dislike it when a person doesn't talk on their phone, but pretends to listen to me while they text on their phone.

Julia Buckley said...

Marilynne, either way it's just rude. What stymies me is why people think it's NOT rude just because it's modern.

Susan D said...

"Not rude because it's modern...." That's an interesting and highly charged concept, and could take us in whole new directions.

Julia Buckley said...

Oh? Give an example!