Back in my day, we knew how to prioritize. Like, if you signed on to Prodigy, you had just enough time to make a sandwich, clean your room, feed the dog and close the door before your Mom heard the modem connect for your 2 am chat session. Kids today like to think they invented staying up all night fucking around online. I don't think I'm becoming a technophobe in my old age. I have yet to yell at anyone to get off my Sim Lawn. With my desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone, I'm more plugged in than ever. I've whiled away many an afternoon with a baby in one hand, a breast pump in the other and my laptop balanced between my knees so I can read books and surf Facebook. That's why I hope a recent New York Times column by Nick Bilton is mostly for funsies. If it's not, then I fear the older generations might be right: My generation might be filled with douche weasels.
Bilton writes about digital etiquette and how it has changed from the old days of answering machines and dead trees. He has some good points, which I'll get to, but he makes the mistake of starting his piece bitching about people who send email and text messages just to say thank you.
Dude, seriously, if you're too busy to deal with someone thanking you, you need to take a step back from your insane lifestyle before you have a stroke and die. No one is too busy to read "thank you." No one.
He sounds even worse when he admits he let his father leave a dozen unanswered voicemail messages, and his sister finally had to tell their Dad to text him. Nice way to treat the guy who contributed half your DNA. To be fair, I never answered my biological mother's voicemail messages, either. But that's because she was a pain in the ass who called me all the time. I've since arranged to call her once a month, and I think we're both happier for it. If someone's bombarding you with messages in a format you don't like, call him and ask him to do something different. Especially if his jizz made you who you are today. It's only fair.
Bilton goes on to quote Baratunde Thurston, co-creator of Creative Wit, a "comedic creative company," whatever that is. Thurston is peeved because people ask him online how they can buy his book when they can just as easily Google the information themselves. How sad. People want to know how they can give Thurston money, and that just sucks up his time like you wouldn't believe. Let me break this tiny violin out of my pill case.
Bilton does have a good point, which I promised I would get to: Know your audience. Odds are good that if you're talking to someone under 30, they'd rather get a text than a voicemail. Find information yourself if it's trivial to do so. That sort of thing. My father-in-law prefers to talk to customer-service reps on the phone. I feel like if I need to talk to a person, the business has failed me.
I have some advice for people at the top of the digital food chain, like Bilton: Don't be surprised if your audience isn't who you think it is. Just because someone chats on Facebook doesn't mean he knows how to use Google Maps. Just because she is 30 doesn't mean she shops online. I have plenty of friends who still use feature phones and pay per text message. Why would they text when email is free?
Throw people a bone when you know they're not riding your digital groove -- you know, people like your Dad.