I have an iPhone that is virtually growing out of my hand, such is my level of connectivity. I’m contactable by email, text, Twitter, Facebook and of course, by an old fashioned phone call, 24-7. I like that level of connectivity. Not everyone does. I get annoyed when I call someone and they don’t pick up. Or I text and don’t get a swift response. But everyone has the right to be as connected or disconnected as they like. Except…
I think there is still a level of etiquette expected, no matter how disconnected you want to be. If you see you have several missed calls on your phone from someone, the polite thing to do is return those calls. In a reasonable time frame.
Now, reasonable is another of those relative words, where precise meaning is fluid. What’s a reasonable length of time in which to return someone’s call? A few hours? A day? A month? Never?
Modern phone etiquette experts claim 24 hours is the window within which a polite person returns a missed call, unless a time is specified by the caller in a voicemail.
And what about responding to text messages? This is a very murky area. Would the most polite of polite people respond to *every* text message? Regardless of whether it was asking a question or not? “Hi, loved your tweet this morning. Made coffee come out of my nose!”. Does that text require a response? Perhaps something like, “Thanks, that was the desired result – success!”. Or is it OK to smile and hit delete?
Of course, the answers will vary from culture to culture. A New York Times piece on the subject, mentioned: ““Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”.
I certainly don’t email anyone before I call them, and I sure as heckfire have never received such an email. But the US also had a weird love affair with pagers that never really took off here, so perhaps it’s another of those odd cultural differences that make life fun.
As a safety measure I’ve taught my children my mobile phone number. They recite it back to me whenever we get out of the car at a crowded place, such as a shopping centre, or the Ekka. They asked if they should also learn Dad’s number and I said no. “There’s no point. He rarely carries it with him (limiting exposure to carcinogenic emissions),” I explained. “And you’re more often than not, out with me.” Similar reasoning for not teaching them our home phone number. We’re not at home when the child is lost, so no need to learn that number.
On those occasions hubby carries a phone, it’s in case he needs to make a call. Not so he can be contacted. And while I find that as annoying as hell, particularly when I want to call him, I’ve learned now that it is what it is and it won’t change.
So, I’ve learned, and come to accept, that he prefers less connectivity than me (and with me! Boom-tish!). And that everyone has the right to be 100% in control of their own connectivity.
But what about when refusing contact crosses the line into bad behaviour?
Someone in my contact list, who shall remain nameless, received three missed-call notifications from me recently. And two ignored text messages. Over the course of three days.
Now, the reasonable person would assume then that my calls and messages weren’t being missed, as much as they were being deliberately ignored. And yes, that person has the right to refuse contact from me, certainly. Except that I know this person isn’t so much ignoring my calls as being careless about returning them. And that’s where I get really annoyed. Because that’s taking our relationship for granted and treating me, and my time, quite shabbily. And I’m not the only person who gets this treatment. Others less experienced in the ways of modern carelessness have erroneously formed the view their calls are being screened, and it has hurt their feelings deeply.
So I would say, by all means be in control of how much connectivity you have with the world, but don’t ditch plain old manners by refusing to return calls or texts. That’s rude.