We used to ask people the time so that we could start a conversation. Or ask for directions in the hopes that they might walk with us. Or any number of similar conversational gambits that might move the relational ball forward.
In a New York Times article entitled Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette, author Nick Bilton writes about the balance between time-wasting pleasantries and modern-era communication protocols. I do a lot of this wrong; so shoot me!
I hear that voicemail is generally not the preferred way of communicating information. And that when I see that someone has called, I can assume I should call back vs. depending on voicemail confirmation of that. Younger friends have mentioned that I write VERY long texts (what options do we have if voicemail isn’t going to be heard?). And I do wonder why my inbox is so full if it’s true — as many young friends have told me — that “nobody uses email.” Some of this is confusing.
What I do know, however, from Mr. Bilton’s article is that it’s considered rude to ask people things that you could easily Google (map directions, historical facts). lmgtfy.com is “Let me google that for you,” a real website that links someone to Google if they dare ask for information that they should have looked up themselves.
What I think people don’t realize is that sometimes we ask people things we really could find out ourselves because we simply want to connect. Yes, it’s a time-waster. Yes, it’s redundant. But it’s also just a bid for involvement.
So yes, you can skip some of the back and forth… but does efficiency always trump connecting?