Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Manners

To my son Tommy,

As we move forward in technology, there has to be an evolution of new manners.  In this case I am ranting about emails.

When the phone call was the primary form of communication, people had rules for when and when not to call.  Sure these rules varied from person to person and relationship to relationship and situation to situation but there were protocols and courtesies.

I would never call someone at 1 AM unless it was an emergency, or unless the guy I was calling was most likely out and about as most of my friends were in their 20s.  But for the most part any call after 8 pm was questionable.  Likewise the early morning call usually waited for at least 8 AM on a workday (again unless you are talking about your dad in his drinking days and then that number was pushed to 1 PM at all times) or 10 AM on a weekend.

Now we have emails, texts, and so many other little digital dings.  People work around the clock.  Can't sleep?  Get up and finish that project and beat the rush and send off a good twenty emails because you need answers and people aren't up.  When people still were disconnected from their email, when someone would have to go sit down at his computer and connect on purpose to get his emails, this was still okay.  The email would be there when they got to it and just by them getting to it meant they were available.  Email in essence worked more like an answering machine for a missed phone call in those days.

But in today's age, we are ever connected.  We have our smart phones and tablets by our bedside and we have the constant ding of that incoming notification to tempt us from whatever activity.  All those geeky tech guys like your father schedule the menial task of mass email during low load times on the server which means 12 AM or 2 AM or whenever.  There is no second thought about sending off an email at the wee hours of the morning because we think it will not interrupt anyone and maintain that misconception that they will get to it when they are ready.

Many will point to the receiver of the email rather than the sender and say they should adjust.  They will claim that it isn't their fault the guy brings his ipad to his bed stand.  They will claim they are not demanding instantaneous answers, just getting things off their plate.  They will frame like it is a GTD (Get Things Done) initiative rather than some shortcoming of common decency.  They will say they have no control over their automated systems that send the email out then.  Some will even show you tools and work-arounds like the "Do Not Disturb" settings and such so you can fix it and they don't have to adjust.  I guess at first glance these are all logical arguments and in my younger tech days I have probably said all these things and more.  But the truth is it is just another example of how selfish our world has become.

When you move something off your plate, you move it onto another.  When you send twenty emails at night, the other guy went to bed with a clean plate and woke up to a full to do list.  When you send out mailers or automated systems and don't consider the base working hours, you scream that you are more important than the effort to change an automated task.  When you claim it is the "victims" responsibility to shield themselves from the barrage of emails at unacceptable hours, well you sound like the person saying "They obviously wanted it" because they didn't set up a filter or whatever.

As you go forward in life, realize that information is information and just because it is delivered in a new form doesn't mean all courtesies and respects and considerations fly out the door.  It is an evolving process as we get more and more connected in this world.  Think to yourself, as you hesitate over that send button for your text or email, would I call this person right now and bother them with this?  Or can it wait?  If you answer that it could wait, throw that response in a draft folder and send it later.  Don't make the other guy have to jump through hoops to protect his private time.  If I hear from parents of your friends or girlfriends that you somehow have lost respect for acceptable hours... well in our family lessons that are meant to reverse a bad behavior can be quite the production.

Of course my son this advice comes with a caveat.  You (and your mother and such) can always, no matter the time of day, call me, text me, email me, video conference me, mind meld with me, or whatever new form of communication jumps out. But as for the other avenues in my life, be it the promotional sign up for some store or casino, or be it that guy from work who just likes working at midnight, be forewarned that I will find and do business with those who take my time and timezone and acceptable communication hours seriously.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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