Instant Messaging and Other Email Woes 5

My daughter bugged me to sign up for instant messaging so she could email me when I was on the computer.  My stepdaughter “seconded that emotion”*.  She told me that she and other friends and relatives IM’d throughout the day.  I thought they were all supposed to be working but what do I know?   They are young.  They can juggle.

I signed up.  She kept asking me if I could see her thumbnail photo by her IM.  I couldn’t.  She said that meant I need to accept her request to be my IM friend.  I finally did it right.  She tried to get me to put my photo up. “But you already know what I look like,” I complained.  Clearly I don’t get it – I don’t have photos on my phone or special rings on my cellphone for friends or family either.  I’m either answering the phone or not.

After they interrupted…I mean IM’d me a few more times, I sent them an IM asking why regular emails or phone calls weren’t enough.  They teased me to come into the 21st century.  When I complained I didn’t like the interruptions, I was told I could choose to ignore their IMs or put myself on invisible.  My step-daughter said I needed to learn to “multi task.”

Technology changes communication but not always for the better.  In my experiences – IM and even to some extent emails are great for short bursts of info but not for deep conversation.  Here are some of my computer communication pet peeves:

The Jokesters – I have relatives and friends who only send jokes and cartoons via email.  That’s it. Never a personal message.  Never a personal update.  Never an inquiry about how you might be doing.  Usually the cartoon they’re sending is buried deep in the email because it’s been forwarded several times.  AAARRRRGGGGHHH. Forward from the original source only.  If I have to click more than 2 forwards, guess what – your email is getting deleted.

The Conspiracy Theorists – A couple of friends only send the latest conspiracy or anything negative.  They love to spread horrible news.

The Have A Blessed Days – they send chain-letter quotes from the Bible that promise a blessing will come to you but only if you forward or try to guilt you into forwarding because “you forward other stuff – why not forward for God?”  Computers test my faith but only in them.  My belief in God is intimate, on-going, and doesn’t require email.

The Black Holes – they make a request, you comply, they never acknowledge receiving the information, the greeting, the whatever you sent. 

The Interrupters – IM interrupts.  I like to reply to or initiate communication in my own time.  (I know I can select to be invisible but doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of having IM?)

The Non-Users – “Oh, I don’t check email” or “I haven’t checked email in weeks.”  Then why do you have it?  And why do you complain that you haven’t gotten information from me or that you missed xyz?  If you checked your email you would have seen it – even if you only checked it once a week.

The Skimmers – Several folks don’t fully read the email – they read the subject and maybe the first line.  They often fail to realize that they’ve actually been asked a question that needs an answer or other follow-up action.  Please learn to read the whole email and at least acknowledge that you’ve seen the request even if you don’t have an answer yet.

The multitaskes – NOT!  You are doing two things – poorly.  You can multi task in real time as when you put clothes in the washer while sweeping a floor.  In computer time, you can’t.  If you’re clicking emails while talking to me – I can tell.  (I’ve been guilty of this myself and am trying to reform.)  Now – when I’m talking while on the computer, I mostly play Spider Solitaire so that I can do something with my restless hands while attuning to the conversation.

FOCUS PEOPLE!  When you’re writing an email – write it, spell check it, and if you’re angry leave it as a draft for a while before you reread it, edit it and then send it.  Same thing for phones.  How annoying is it when someone calls on a cellphone and clicks back and forth between the cellphone and the land line?  How about focusing on the call you made? That’s why we have voice mail.  (And speaking of voice mail – have you noticed that since the advent of voice mail you are sometimes startled to call and actually get a live person?  I sometimes stumble and bumble because I wasn’t prepared to and didn’t necessarily want to  talk to a live person in real time.)

Back in my single days, I actually was heavily into IM because it allowed me to talk trash with interesting guys from all over the country.  It quickly got old and so I discontinued the practice.

Don’t know yet if I’m going to open up myself daily to this IM thing.  Perhaps I’ll set aside one day a week for the interruptions…uh…IMs. That’s the least I can do.

*lyric from a Smokey Robinson and The Miracles song.

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

5 thoughts on “Instant Messaging and Other Email Woes

  • Ekua

    Checked out your blog today. i totally agree with your pet peeves and lack of email etiquette. I have one more I think you missed – unchecked urban myths. For instance the Tommy Hilfiger on Oprah story; the USPS destroying African American heritage stamps; the child with cancer who wrote the lovely poem that her doctor is dedicated to sending around the world; and on and on. In order for the internet to be most useful and effective we have to be good stewards. The pen is mightier than the sword!

    Great points – thanks for reading. CS

  • Patricia

    Back in the day, when the children were home, I had “call waiting” to try and
    ensure I would at least know my friends had called. When they were gone, I discontinued the service. When I call someone I don’t want to be interrupted. The same is true of time on the computer. Unfortunately, all these options to keep in touch have not resulted in better understanding. We could all benefit from more face to face communication where we actually listen to what is being said.

    I agree but know that we have to be bi-cultural:  real time with live people  and computer time with our computer selves.  Not ready to go into second life yet.  CS

  • Ramey

    Mon Dieu! You have wounded me to the quick Madame! (Laughing) I am a multitasking aficionado! I am perfectly capable of carrying on three IM chats and four email conversations, while simultaneously texting updates to need-to-know clients. And (before you ask) I do them flawlessly!
    Modus operandi? IM! Maximize your work day! You’d be surprised by the number of people that downgrade to DEFCON 5 when they realize they have to TYPE! (Grammar is open to interpretation, but correct spelling and punctuation are a must!)
    “You mean I can’t call? …then never mind.”
    Of course, you must avoid phones, meetings, and planning sessions like dysentery.
    You must be willing to text your husband from the other side of the couch.
    It is imperative that you do not speak. Ever.
    You must be willing to respond to all verbal requests by email, including, but not limited to, the colleague sitting at the desk next to yours that just asked if you would like to go to lunch.
    Welcome to the future! When I walk into an office and there is more talking than typing, I feel like I just stepped into a documentary on National Geographic.
    Is that a Smith Corona?
    Up next: Printing to PDF. Save the trees!

    You’re funny! Witty!  and just plain wrong!   focus…talk to live human beings sometimes face-2-face!   :-)  CS

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