People who rant about technology and manners usually annoy me. I’m talking about the bookstore employee with the obnoxious-sounding voice who wouldn’t let me use a cell phone near the entrance of her store, or the people in front of me at a conference on information technology who told me: "You know, the sound of your typing is sort of distracting." The basic theory of these people is that using cell phones and computers is essentially private and for the fun of it, and therefore rude in public. This is absolutely ridiculous. (Or as Kristiane writes in Norwegian, it’s so 2003.)
Slightly less ridiculous is the idea that communication technology can be stressful because it forces us to be perpetually available to anyone who has our contact information. This idea makes people turn their phones off, only check their e-mail during weekdays, and relish the lack of internet connection in their vacation homes. This can be extremely stressful to the people who need to get in touch with them, but sometimes people just need a break, right? As usual, the problem is not e-mail or text messaging in itself, but the fact that our habits and our rules of decent behaviour haven’t caught up with the changes in technology.
Ok, where’s the rant? Is this really me being angry?
See, that’s the whole point. This issue doesn’t make me rage, but maybe it should. Someone once told me that in this information technology age, if the sound of your own cellphone ringtone makes you stressed instead of excited, and if checking your e-mail and seeing no new messages is a relief rather than a disapointment, then you know you’ve grown up. I guess I have.
I don’t currently have a stalker, a demanding job or particularly needy friends. But somehow, all the little messages and questions and requests seem to add up to a full-time job (which I do in addition to full-time studies and part-time receptionist work) as a combination of secretary, therapist, event planner, student guidance counselor, tutor, mediator and research assistant to everyone I know. Because I’m such a language geek that I genuinely want to proof-read your essay. As long as I’m taking notes in class, I might as well e-mail you a copy. I know everyone who’s going on this trip, so it makes sense that I coordinate things. Yes, I do know the address of that restaurant. Don’t worry, everything will be ok, but I’m here for you if you need to talk. I would love to have coffee with you. You know, I read about that somewhere – I’ll send you a link.
I do know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I don’t know exactly how to stop this. And I really don’t think that turning off my cellphone and going into some sort of hermit-like existence whenever I want to relax is a healthy or polite way. I really believe that if you publish your e-mail address somewhere, you should check it regularly, and answer people, and that if you have a cellphone, people who have your number should be allowed to call.
But maybe it’s time I set a few rules:
If I’ve already e-mailed you something, you have the information. You’re welcome by the way. I’m not sending it again. I’m not printing it out for you. I don’t necessarily have the info in my head, so I won’t repeat it if you call. If you choose to have an e-mail system that doesn’t let you search or archive things so that you find them again, I highly recommend gmail.
If I don’t answer the phone, send me a text message. I’m probably in the library. I’m always in the library (nerd, remember?)
I don’t like paper. I don’t like printing things. Just accept that.
Try Google before you ask me. I once got a call from a classmate about something, and when I suggested Google Scholar, she called me an angel and a lifesaver. Seriously.
I really feel that a short, "rude" answer along the lines of: "This really is not my problem; I don’t have time to help you." is much more considerate than just ignoring e-mails or texts with direct questions for weeks. I follow this rule myself. Don’t take it personally.
When I leave a party "early", there’s a reason for this. I really do want to stay for one more dance or one more drink. Please don’t tempt me. I am human, and I need sleep.
(Or comment on the blog, which is essentially the same thing. You can even tell me not to publish the comment, which makes commenting the exact same thing. Except that this guy is able to read unpublished comments, so beware.)
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