We live in an extremely connected world.
There was a time, in which, if you wished to call someone on the telephone and that someone was not within physical proximity of the telephone (which was likely mounted to a wall or sitting on a table), that someone would not be able to answer your call. You might let the telephone ring three or four times, and then, you would hang up. You might try again later, if it was important enough.
Back then, there were a number of accepted-as-valid reasons for not answering the telephone. Some families didn’t answer the phone during dinner, or during homework time. Some families didn’t allow their children to answer the phone, and if a present adult was indisposed, no one would answer. And no one answering was an acceptable outcome.
There was also a certain amount of courtesy associated with telephone communication. There was almost an attitude that a telephone call was somewhat of an intrusion, and those making the calls would take that into account. This influenced when, and how often they would call. They wouldn’t call after the childrens’ bedtimes or during nap times or dinner times, unless there was an urgent reason to do so.
The advent of the answering machine changed this, but only slightly, in that, callers no longer had to hang up when no one answered, but they could leave a message for their intended recipient.
As technology has progressed, we seem to have been conditioned to expect near-instantaneous communication all the time. And, since we have more avenues with which to connect with people, a lot of the courtesy we used to have, seems to have gone out the window.
In non-emergency situations, I have personally witnessed someone trying to call a cell phone (leaving no message), then a home phone (leaving no message), then sending a text, followed by a Facebook message, all in the space of minutes. Some might even extend that to Twitter and an email.
I think this over-reaching in communication attempts stems in part from the receivers’ lack of responsiveness. Since people don’t respond to messages, the messenger will take multiple avenues to try to make contact (even if it is not urgent). It also comes, I think, as a result of living in a world where there are multiple available processes for near real-time communication, resulting in a severe lack of patience.
But, what if I just don’t want to talk to you right now? What if I’m busy, working through something important or trying to spend time in person with my family or a friend? What if I don’t feel like talking right now? What if I just want to be alone for a bit?
I propose we institute two very simple communication rules and bring back common courtesy in communication:
- If you are trying to get in touch with someone, and don’t get them right away, you can leave them a message on one of any of their contact points (voice mail, text, email, messenger app or social network).
- The person being contacted should respond within a reasonable amount of time.
And all of us should learn a little more patience.
Are you an over-reaching communicator? Or are you a lazy responder? Or both?