Communication Overload – Gadget Courtesy

These days, we have a variety of user-friendly means of communicating with other human beings:

  • smart phone
  • cell phone
  • pager
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • home phone
  • work phone
  • email
  • instant messenger
  • fax
  • in-person
  • sky writing
  • billboard advertising

Note the following behavior I have routinely witnessed in the course of passing non-critical information between two individuals (our actors for this example will be Fabio and Merenna):

Fabio calls Merenna’s personal cell phone and gets no answer. He immediately hangs up and calls Merenna’s work cell phone and gets no answer. He immediately hangs up and calls Merenna’s home phone and gets no answer. He immediately hangs up and calls Merenna’s work phone and gets no answer. He immediately gets online to see if her instant messenger status is set to ‘Online’, it is – so he sends her an instant message to call him. Merenna, who is on the phone with another person, sees the instant message come in. Since an instant message did not immediately come back from Merenna, Fabio also sends Merenna an email saying to call him. Merenna finishes her current call, hangs up and calls Fabio. Fabio comments about how difficult it was to reach Merenna, Merenna explains she was on the phone with another caller. Fabio says “oh” and proceeds to say “I was just calling to see what’s up”.

Merenna is now left with the following chores as a result of Fabio’s multiple communications:

  • Canceling out the “missed call” alerts on each cell phone.
  • Listening to and deleting the hang-ups on her traditional phone answering machine/voice mails.
  • Reading and deleting the email.
  • Reading and closing the flashing instant messenger window.

The numerous communication devices at our disposal have created a generation of “I must know what you are doing and where you are at all times for absolutely no reason” users. Try to avoid falling into the endless abyss of meaningless communication and irritation by using gadget courtesy.  If you are unable to reach someone, just leave them a message.  If they never call you back it means one of these four things occurred (all of which you can handle given enough time and support):

  1. The person is very busy and hasn’t had a chance to address the message you have left for him or her.
  2. The person did not get your message due to environmental, hardware, or human malfunction.
  3. The person could care less about you and is not interested in communicating with you.
  4. The person has unfortunately passed away and therefore is unable to respond to your message.
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