Thursday, August 6, 2009

response time guilt

am i the only person that feels horribly guilty if I don't call back or email back someone within 3 days of them calling or emailing?  i know many days i'm worse than this.  i've noticed that the nature of facebook makes me feel like, if someone emails me or comments on a photo, i should just instantly reply because i'm on it all the time (theoretically of course).  i find the asynchronous nature of emails worked for me, and i'm drowning in them.  help!  is their social ettiquete i should be aware of?  

i love my friends and family - it's just that the sheer volume of communication, when taken at an aggregate, is just too much.


Lilac - Like The Flower said...

Hmm. i feel the same way. But here are the rules I apply in social settings. The rules in business are a little different.

a) Mimic response times. So, if someone tends to take 2 days to reply to you, you can easily take 2 days to reply to them.

b) Consider the conversation flow. I often think of replying on facebook, and then realize I wouldn't add anything, and the conversation has reached a natural end. So I stop.

c) Reflect your message. The response time is an indicator of the level of interest you have in the person and topic, as well as the level of business and "other things" you have to do. So if, say, i've emailed you 2 too many times today about my bach party, you can ignore me to send the message that you're at work, and this is not the priority.

Capt. BS said...

I used to pride myself on my immediate responses to emails, IMs, Facebook posts, text messages, phone calls, blog posts, and so forth. (If Twitter ever enters this list, may the gods help us all.)

Over the past year or so, though, I feel like my internal communications bandwidth has been shrinking... Now the rule of thumb seems to be that if I don't respond to you within the first 5 minutes of receiving your communiqué (yes, I did just use that word, with the accent), you're not going to hear back from me for days, or weeks, or at all.

Why? Well, because in those 5 minutes, I received four other emails, read/wrote twenty other IMs, mindlessly browsed 10-15 different web pages, and probably got interrupted by one or more people wanting my attention in the physical world. Add to this the fact that the ratio of these discrete interactions to the number of topics they cover is close to 1, and all of a sudden I've gobbled down a five-scoop A.D.D. sundae with chocolate syrup, butterscotch topping, M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, gummi bears, diced strawberries, and twelve other kinds of candies that haven't existed outside of the Sweet Factory since 1993.

Of course, a day or two later, as I'm walking home from my parking spot, I'll see a fat guy in an ill-fitting clown costume get out of a beat-up Civic and think, "OH CRAP I WAS SUPPOSED TO RESPOND TO THAT EMAIL BEFORE TODAY!" but unless I have your email on my phone, it's unlikely that I'm going to dash off my response before I get home, where additional distractions await.

Do I feel guilty operating this way? Absolutely. But are we as the Great Internet Society compensating for this rapidly-spreading informatitis by creating and adopting etiquette and other social norms (see Lilac's comment) that, properly followed, will help mitigate that guilt? You betcha.

And now, to go bear-hunting in my Cessna.