Perhaps one of the proudest moments of my life (or perhaps not) was when I convinced my mother of the pointlessness of leaving me voicemail. "I won't listen to it," I told her. "I can see that you've called. Just send a text instead." To her credit, she eventually accepted this and is now—like all mothers, I think—a whiz at sending novel-length texts with just the right amount of illegibility-rendering typos and emoticons so that I have no choice but to just stop whatever it is I'm doing and call her. Well played, Mom. Well played. But it's hard for me to have too much impatience with my mom because, well, she's my mom. But what about the other people in my life—and yours!—who don't observe basic digital etiquette? Do they drive you crazy? Because they sure do drive Nick Bilton of The New York Times crazy, and he went on a bit of a rant this past weekend.
Bilton starts off by observing "Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says 'Thank you'? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?" And, well, yeah! That Google thing is super-annoying. The other day I got tweeted at by someone who wanted to know if I could help them find show times for a documentary about Brooklyn. Which, if you've "mastered" Twitter, then probably you should be able to figure out Google. Probably. But Bilton's argument funnels from a sort of broad perception of what annoys everyone in this age of digital communication and into his own specific and plentiful problems. Which are plentiful. And really, really specific. Like, Bilton actually has trained his mom to "communicate mostly through Twitter," because he can't handle interacting with people any other way. Bilton, of course, is a special case because, as someone with a large digital media presence including over 100,000 Twitter followers, his inbox is probably overwhelmed with inconsequential messages and he probably gets tweeted at about dumb shit all the time. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who don't mind having someone text us "thanks" after we've done something nice? What are the rules for the rest of us? Well, after doing a little crowd-sourcing, I've come up with a pretty definitive list of ways to communicate in modern times and not have everyone you know hate you and talk about you behind your back.