Nick Bilton of The New York Times wrote a piece examining the shifting norms of digital etiquette. Among the issues he addresses are:
- Thank you notes
- Voice mail messages
- Email subject lines
- Greetings and closings in email messages
- Asking for directions
For the record, my position on some of these changing social norms is thus:
1. A thank you note sent via email is perfectly acceptable and often preferable. While I routinely send hand-written thank you notes, I acknowledge that they are probably a waste of time, energy and resources. Much more often, I send a thank you message through email.
I also embrace the digital thank you note because I know how angry they make the socially entrenched person who believes that hand written thank you notes curry favor, adhere to implacable social norms, and/or increase their social standing through a traditional, well-written thank you note.
They don't. But making a self-righteous person angrily self-righteous is incredibly amusing.
The truth is that I can say more via a digital thank you note than through a hand written note, and it's content - not contrivance - that is king in this regard.
2. Voicemail messages should only be left if your fingers have fallen off and you therefore cannot send a text message or email.
3. Email subject lines should be written such that I know exactly what the email is going to say minus the details.
Also, people who write highly effective email subject lines deserve reward and acclaim. There should be Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes handed out to these amazing people.
4. Greetings and closings in emails are optional and oftentimes best avoided.
Furthermore, If the email that you are writing is part of a string of emails between you and another person, greetings and closing must be left out after the initial email.
5. You may only ask for directions if you are in a place with spotty and unreliable cellular service or your phone has been eaten by a bear.