Are you in the habit of sending a text or email just to say “thanks?” Nick Bilton says to cut it out because it is a waste of his time. So does Baratunde Thurston: “I have decreasing amounts of tolerance for unnecessary communication because it is a burden and a cost.”
So what is “unnecessary communication,” and should you cut it out?
Bilton hates text messages and emails that say nothing more than “thank you,” reasoning that it does nothing more than waste his time. I agree, but possibly not for the same reasons. I just don’t think a quick “thanks” by text or email is meaningful. It’s like saying happy birthday to your spouse on Facebook and thinking that counts. If you are actually thankful, send an actual, physical thank-you note.
Let me Google that for you
Thurston hates it when people ask him questions they could more easily find on their own, using Google:
a friend asked, by text message, about his schedule for the South by Southwest festival. “I don’t even know how to respond to that,” he said. “The answer would be so long. There’s no way I’m going to type out my schedule in a text.”
Well, I agree that is ridiculous. Use a little common sense when asking questions. If you can get that information easily yourself, do it. This goes for weather and store hours as well as conference schedules. Or don’t be surprised when you get a passive-aggressive Let Me Google That For You link.
I hate voicemail. Sitting and listening to rambling phone messages is an annoying waste of time. According to Wikipedia, voicemail is over 40 years old. All that a voicemail should contain is an identity, a call-back number, and a quick message. If 40 years of voicemail have proved anything, it is that appropriate voicemail etiquette is beyond the grasp of our species.
Fortunately, it is free and easy to re-route voicemail through Google Voice, which will transcribe them well enough for you to get the gist of the message without having to listen to it. This effectively eliminates the voicemail problem.
The “call me” email
The spread of anti-voicemail sentiment has bred an even worse phenomenon, the “call me” email. This is my personal pet peeve, but it seems to be a particular favorite of lawyers. If you want to talk to someone on the phone, pick up the damn phone. If you get voicemail, send an email with some content, or just try calling again later. Sending a “call me” email is just stupid.
If you need more guidance, the Atlantic Wire has a confusing-to-read guide to digital etiquette. GigaOm correctly identifies the source of the problem: too many ways to communicate. Do we really need the mail, email, voicemail, text messages, phone calls, Facebook chat, Facebook messages, Google Chat, Google+ messages, Twitter, Twitter DMs, blog comments, other blogs’ comments, and on and on.
That’s why I route everything I can through email, and get to everything else if and when I feel like it.