Etiquette in the Computer Age

There’s a new etiquette sweeping the land that separates the classy from the crassy.

Even if you always say “Bless you” when someone sneezes and hold the door for the person behind you, you could still end up seeming uncouth, or worse unhip, in the online world.

Let’s start with email.

Have you ever gotten an email from a friend or acquaintance and they include a gigantic business signature at the end of the (usually brief) email?

Then you’ve been “Email Sigged.”

This is when people weigh down a casual business email with a long-winded business signature.

This is like going to your friend’s house dressed in full business garb, with your photo-ID handing around your neck.

Now if the email is for business, then go ahead and heap on your credentials and contacts. Pile on your company position, fax, phone, cell, twitter, facebook, logo, and esig all you want.

But if you’re writing a neighbor, casual acquaintance or friend, finishing with a simple “thanks, Jane” or “best wishes, John” is enough to suffice without making your emails cause an eye-roll to the recipient.

Other rules: No upper-case in emails, on Twitter, anywhere. IT LOOKS LIKE SHOUTING or even worse like you have a problem processing words — as if they bottle up inside so long they finally gush out awkwardly.

Software is cold

Emails, texting and tweeting are a “colder” form of communication in that there is no human handwriting, no human voice, no warm human presence. It’s devoid of many of the aspects we’ve been accustomed to over most our existence. Therefore it’s important to go the extra mile to seem pleasant, respectful, happy.

People cannot hear your tone of voice when you say “Cool” to an invitation, was it a bored “cool,” a deeply satisfied “cool” or an excited “cool.”

To avoid misinterpretation, which has ruined many relationships in the digital age, put in the extra words to reassure your recipient. Like “Cool, that sounds really fun. Looking forward to it.”

It doesn’t hurt to add a few words to make up for the fact that we can now communicate and make plans with anyone whether we’re on a bus, vacationing in another country or on the couch at home.

Use the extra time our technology gives us to enhance communication, not diminish it.

Stay tuned for more tips. There’s no end to the new challenges we face in retaining our human-ness in our metallic, electrically charged existence.


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