This is an unusual topic for me, but sometimes I just have to rant about something.
I’m a late adapter to text messaging. For years, I just refused to do it. That was at least partially because I had a phone that made the typing difficult and a plan that charged me for each message. In the last year, I got a Blackberry, which makes it much easier, and I have a lot of friends who like to text, so I’ve definitely come around to understanding some of the benefits. BUT I still find it annoying under many circumstances.
I was surprised that, although, a few web sites and blogs (see here, here, and here) had made an effort to tackle the topic of SMS etiquette, none of them really addressed the things that were bothering me in particular. These sites made mostly reasonable and common sense requests like keeping your phone on vibrate when you’re in public, not responding to a text when you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone, and not texting while driving.
So here’s my list of addenda to what I found.
1. If you can anticipate that a conversation is going to take more than 2-3 back and forth messages, do it over the phone. If you’re in a situation where you can’t talk, ask the person if you can talk about it later. Short casual meaningless conversations are fine. How are you doing? What’s up? And if I’m not doing anything in particular, I don’t mind having a somewhat longer conversation via text if we can’t talk some other way, but really, I’d much rather just talk if possible.
2. Similarly, don’t use text to ask a long series of questions. If you’re just getting to know somebody, it’s common to want to ask them a lot of questions about themselves, but jeez–let’s just go for coffee or chat on the internet sometime. If I’m in the middle of doing some work, reading something, or even just playing a video game, and my phone buzzes, I always check to see what it is as soon as I can because it might be a job offer or a response from a literary agent or some other emergency. There’s nothing more annoying to me than having to stop what I’m doing, whatever it is, every 30 seconds to answer another text.
3. Don’t ask questions that require a long or thoughtful response. Yes or no questions that don’t require a follow-up are ideal for text, as are simple requests like an address, phone number, etc.
Anything else? I think all three of these are all basically this–don’t make me text you a lot. A little is fine and very useful sometimes, but please use this technology with some reservation.