Digital and Tech Etiquette

This category contains 9 posts

Managing Your Cell Phone Addiction: Class Now in Session

Earlier this week, I sat in on a media presentation.  The presenter wasn’t the most engaging and apparently he was filling in for someone else at last minute notice.  You could see he was nervous and just wanted to get through the PowerPoint as soon as possible.  He stopped in the middle of his presentation and, in a tone riddled with annoyance, said to someone in the audience “Should I wait until you’re finished texting to continue?”  Now the truth is, many people were using their smartphones throughout the session.  So why did he call out this one person?  He spotlighted her because she was in his direct line of sight.  She was sitting right in front of him and didn’t think anything of whipping out her phone and chatting it up!

I began to think of my classes and how at the beginning of the semester some students think it is alright to text while I’m teaching or answer a call in class.  Contrary to their beliefs, there is a standard of cell phone etiquette that you should put into action when you are listening to a lecturer or presenter of any sort.  Practicing this short list of standards will help you to convey that you respect the person and the work they put into sharing information with you:

  1. Turn off that cell phone ringer!  Vibrate is an option if the phone won’t be resting against anything that makes the vibration louder.
  2. Put your cell phone away (out of site).  Hiding your phone behind your bag or in your lap while you type away is not the same as putting it away.
  3. If you must keep your phone visible, then turn it face down so that the LED light notifications do not distract you or the presenter.
  4. If you anticipate receiving a call or responding to a series of text messages, then take the conversation outside until you are done and ready to return.
  5. When using the phone as a tool in the session, let your presenter know ahead of time that you will be using it for that reason.  For instance, if you will need to calculate data that will be discussed, then you should explain that you will keep your phone out in order to utilize the calculator.

As with everything else, there are exceptions to the rule.  In today’s world, with everyone being wired (or WiFi-ed), a presenter might ask the audience to keep their phones available to access the Internet in order to surf the web, visit a specific website, tweet about the lecture, or any of the other awesome things you can do on a smartphone now.  I take the liberty of incorporating that kind of technology usage into my lectures all the time and so do many others.  In those cases, by all means comply with the request.  Just keep in mind that the main purpose of you working on your cell phone is still to participate in the activity led by your presenter and not to text your BFF for an hour.


Formal Email Writing Etiquette: Get Your Desired Results

We’ve talked about the general, informal email, which is not so tricky, especially when dealing with friends and close acquaintances. As we discussed in Email Etiquette: Know Your Audience, there are some simple rules to follow to keep your basic email messages on the safe side. However, the big, bad wolf of emails seems to be the Formal Email.  What a diva she is, requiring more thought and a much more structure. The formal emails can include messages that are addressed to an employer, an official at a school or college, an executive at a company, or a professional with whom you are not acquainted, amongst others. Yet, some of the same tips for basic emails still apply, with a few additional rules:

Opening Salutation

1.  Formally greet the person to whom you are writing. For example, try one of the following opening salutations: “Dear Mr. Rodriguez,” or “Good morning, Anna:” or “To Whom It May Concern:”


2. Identify yourself in the most relevant manner. You can choose to state who you are in relation the person or topic (i.e. a salesperson, customer, student, etc.). You can identify yourself or your interest by way of pertinent information, such as an account number, a job ID, an order number, etc. You can also tell the person your name here, but you will still have to sign off with your name at the end.

3. Concisely state the purpose of your email. Clearly and briefly summarize why you are contacting the person. You will have the opportunity to elaborate later in the email, so there is no need to be long winded at this juncture.

Body Paragraph(s)

4. State and explain the main points of your email in detail. Lay out all of the important elements and/or occurrences of your business, interest, issue, concern, or request. Paint a full picture for the other person. It is necessary for you to convey your thoughts and tell your story.

5. Be careful not to ramble or go off on tangents. Although you want to be thorough, you want to keep the person’s attention and help them to understand where you are coming from. Particularly, if you are sending a complaint, avoid including extra thoughts that are overly emotional, too personal, or unnecessarily insulting.


6. Express the number one goal you want to accomplish with this email, once again. If there is a key point you think might still be complicated or confusing, this is your chance to clarify it, briefly! Here are a few questions to consider: Who should take action? Which action do you want them to take? Will you play a role in this? Is there anything you are willing to do or offer? What outcome do you desire?

7. Provide your most reliable contact information. If you want a timely response, then you must give them a way to reach you directly. Choose a channel through which you know you will easily receive the person’s response, like a phone number that you have regular access to, a direct voicemail number you check frequently, or a mailing address. In some instances there is no need to provide additional forms of contact if it is understood that the other person will respond to the email address through which you are sending the message. In this case, providing your contact information means making sure your email address is visible.

8. Thank the person for his or her time, cooperation, assistance, or anything that he or she has already done. You also have the choice of thanking them in advance for whatever it is you anticipate or hope they will do. Here are two examples: 1) Thank you for your continued support. 2) Thank you in advance for resolving this issue.

Closing Salutation

9. Sign off with a respectful closing salutation, followed by your name. There are many options, so select the one that you feel is most fitting and that makes you feel most comfortable. Some examples are “Yours truly,” “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours,” or “Best regards,”
(Note that the first word in your salutation is capitalized, but the second word is not.)

Before You Click Send!

10. Proofread and edit your email. Check for any confusing language, inaccuracy of facts, typos, grammatical or spelling errors, inaccuracy and misspelling of people’s names, spacing and formatting mishaps, incorrect punctuation, or automatic correction disasters. Also, make sure you have not inappropriately used all capital letters, which can look like you are shouting. Some of these might seem minor, but they vary in significance to different people and can be the deciding factor for whether or not you get your intended results.

These are a couple of examples of how to structure a formal email message. (Click on the email to enlarge):

Formal Email Sample 1:

Formal Email Sample 2:

Email Etiquette: Know Your Audience

A little over a year ago, I was talking with a couple of public relations managers who were expressing

Photo credit: Master isolated images

the difference in how entry-level professionals correspond over email now compared to how they used to when they started out.  There was a slight tone of annoyance with the lack of professionalism and pleasantry.  One manager said, “When I started, we would begin an email message to a superior by saying ‘Good morning.'” Just last month, I found myself in the same conversation with a room full of professors.  An information design professor said, “The students don’t even state who they are in the email!”  In both cases, the concern is many people aren’t sure how to address others (especially those who are not their peers) when using electronic mail.

I can relate to both sides of the informal or impersonal email trend.  I’ve been the one to send a message and get directly to business, “Hi Alex, I am writing to request…  Please send it over ASAP.  Thanks, Jai.”  Only to have Alex write back saying, “Hi Jai, I hope you had a great weekend.” before getting to business.  In a forgiving manner, Alex reminded me that I was speaking to a real person. Now I make it a point to check myself and talk to the person, not the computer screen.

On the other hand I’ve been the recipient of the message that goes something like this, “Here’s my assignmetn. I know it’s late, but I hope you’l count it.”  That’s the full email – no greeting, no proofreading, and the student did not bother to identify herself.  My disdain aside, I almost discarded the note, because as I sped through my overflowing inbox it looked more like spam.

It’s understood that the very nature of email makes it a more relaxed mode of communication, but that doesn’t mean you throw all basic rules of correspondence out of the window.  These are some tips to think about as you construct your email:

1.  Keep the recipient of your email in mind.  You might need to make your writing more or less formal depending on the individual you are addressing.  “Dear Chris,” is appropriate for a potential employer; whereas “Hi Jean,” is fine for a familiar contact; and “Hey Mike,” is cool for a co-worker who is your friend.

2. Greet the other person.  Let the person know you are talking to him/her.  Say hi, hello, good morning, or whatever floats your boat, but say something.  Remember that you are talking to a human being.  You can type something simple like “I hope all is well with you” or you can ask them how they are doing.

3. Clearly state the point of your email.  Briefly sum it up in your subject heading.  Then in the body of the note, make sure the person can understand why you are contacting them.  Are you sending them something?  Are you requesting something?  Are you just touching base?

4. Identify yourself at some point in the message.  You can do the normal thing and sign off with your name at the end.  If it is your first time reaching out to the person, you can state who you are in the first sentence.  Just make sure at some point they know this note is coming from you.

5. Proofread!  Show that you give two hoots about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.  Take some pride in all that education you’ve amassed by now and flex your grammatical muscles.

6. Once you’ve already sent and received messages, it is OK to give more informal responses.  If you are sending notes back and forth throughout the day, then it’s not expected that you include salutations, identification or well wishes before you press send each time.  It’s acceptable for you to respond directly to what is being discussed without the fluff.

Example of a safe email:

For examples of formal email writing, see Formal Email Writing Etiquette: Get Your Desired Results.

A Restraining Order with Your Name on It

The way technology is now makes it so very easy to track another person’s every online move.  You have close to complete access to where your best friend is hanging out at this very moment by peeping at Foursquare check-ins.  It’s easy to know if your girlfriend is sending smiley faces or hugging the next man just by perusing her wall.  The photos of your little sister going through her scantily clad phase keep popping up all over the place.  The list of things you can monitor goes on and on.  It’s like the Internet is tempting you, even encouraging you to be a stalker.

Too many relationships have been destroyed over what people thought they saw happen on a social network or microblogging site.  It not worth the tension and heartache, especially since often times the way things appear in a single post or photo aren’t quite what they seem.  While you may assume you are staring at a photo of your girlfriend squeezing some other dude, you could really be looking at a shot of her giving her coworker a brief, uneventful farewell.  No need to tint your car windows and wear your sunglasses at night to spy on your girlfriend.

You have to be the one to make a conscious decision not to spend hours checking others’ timelines, walls, boards, check-ins all day, every day.  And when you do come across this info about your significant other, friend, or relative, it is best that you do not try to hold it against them.  This is not information for you to use to make unfounded accusations, because there can be a back story to just about anything you find online.  It is better to take most of these things with a grain of salt.  If you do see a red flag, then raise the topic in a manner that is not accusatory and see if there is a reasonable explanation behind it.

If nothing else, consider that you have better things to do with your time than stalk those you care about.  Sure you can look to see that all is well with them, but don’t use it as a means to track their every move and make them uncomfortable about sharing their experiences.

High Tech Haters

Photo Credit: Imagerymajestic

Plain and simple, cyber bullying is not nice.  Kids in junior high and high school should not get on Facebook calling other kids names.  College students shouldn’t get on message boards or mass e-mail to encourage the thrashing of a certain type of student.  Great, I’m glad we got that out of the way.

What I really want to address is this murky area of cyber bullying in the adult world where people make vague, general quips on social networking sites.  It’s the racist comments, anti-semitic posts, the gay bashing jokes that don’t necessarily say “Go out and shoot all [insert marginalized group here] until there are no more left,” but they often insinuate that it’s okay to harm another human being. Another type of comment that is commonly resorted to is the unfounded slander of another individual’s good name, which brings them down or endangers their livelihood.  These are not messages of retaliation or empowerment for you.  They’re signals of hatred and they are passive aggressive threats towards others.  At times, they are just enough of a push to convince some unstable dim-wit to take action that turns out fatal.

Consider that anyone you speak out against or encourage others to harm has loved ones who do want them around.  S/he is someone’s child or parent, friend, soul mate, reason to go another day.  This is a living, breeding, bleeding person.  In other words, this person is more like you than you would care to admit.  Instead of using social media to bring them harm, use it to Google or Bing ways to manage your own anger and pain.

Digital Disrespect: You Didn’t Call Me Back!

So many of us are guilty of this one.  Here’s how it goes…  It’s Tuesday morning and you call your friend to catch up on juicy, new developments since the weekend.  Your friend doesn’t return the call.  On Tuesday evening, you text your BFF to say “Hey, what’s up?  I left you a message.  Call me back.”  You get no response.  You hop on Twitter and see that s/he has been tweeting half the day away.  Tweeting about what’s “now playing,” Blue Ivy’s godmother, the POTUS giving a SOTU, and on and on.  So you check Facebook and there’s your friend posting photos while posing in the bathroom mirror; “liking” wall photos with the long quotes; checking into Starbucks.  And there you are, fuming, wondering why you haven’t received a response all day.

Before you blast them with sub-tweets, here’s what you need to realize.  Before the advent of mobile device and social network stalking, people had down time.  They would turn off the ringer on their phones.  They would complete a thought without a little red light or abrupt vibration interrupting.  They would step outside with… wait for it… no way for you to contact them!  I know, it’s amazing.  Well, people (yourself included) still need that peace and quiet sometimes.  Technology has not changed that about human nature yet.

If someone takes a long time to return your message, it could be because they are not in the mood to chat, they do not have the energy, or they are not in a place to hold the kind of conversation they want to have with you.  Don’t take it personally, plotting to hold it against them for the next 25 years, deleting them from all your social sites and blocking their phone number.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  More than likely they will contact you sooner than later and talk your head off or you’ll talk off theirs.  All will be right in the world again.  So save the drama and give each other some digital, mobile space.

Clean-up in Aisle 2: Managing Your Online Rep

Previously, in Hot Shots and the Should Nots, I talked specifically about cleaning up your online photo/video sharing to protect yourself. Here, I want to take it further and encourage you to take similar precaution with whatever you post, tag, tweet, like, or pin across social media platforms. Plus, I will provide information on companies that can help you with revamping and streamlining your online reputation. I want to make it clear that this doesn’t mean you can’t share provocative, controversial, fun or silly thoughts and items. What I want you to be aware of is the fact that whenever you do this you are forever attaching your name to it. So consider whether you’re releasing something detrimental to your personal safety, family, career or general reputation.

Do you really want to cosign the parody “Sh!t Black Girls Say,” if you’re not a Black girl? Are you sure you want to tweet about cheating on your computer science exam? Do you have to click “like” and repost 87 videos of teen girls slapping each other? All I’m saying is you should think first.

Now, if you have been sharing on the Internet in a manner you aren’t so proud of, as I mentioned in the previous post, there are several companies that can help you. Reputation Management Online, Reputation Hawk LLC, MyReputation, DefendMyName, and Naymz all provide services for managing your image and reputation in the cyber world. If you find that you are having trouble landing interviews or offers after background checks, or that people around town are just looking at you funny, these online establishments are worth looking into.

If you’re interested in handling your digital rep on your own, keep in mind that it can be time consuming but there are free sites to help you along with that ambition as well. Sites like MyPermissions.org and Reppler help you see your reputation risks across social media platforms, so that you’ll get a good lay out of the issues you would want to target.

You are now equipped with the tools you’ll need for your online reputation clean-up. In the meanwhile, think before you tweet, ponder before you post, simply be smart before you share and your image will be all sorted out before you know it.

Hot Shots and the Should Nots

With all the madness across the wild, wild web, it’s time to do a series on digital etiquette and protocol to help you protect yourself and your image.  Shall we start with the topic of photo and video sharing on digital or social media platforms?

Oh, you know which photos and videos I’m talking about!  The ones in which the girl is leaning forward with her breasts spilling out her top while making that weirdo kissy face.  The one in which the guy is cheesing at the camera with a woman bent over, grabbing her ankles, grinding on him.  The pics of you posing au naturel with the seductive bedroom eyes.  Yes, those.

I know, I know, your Twitter is private and Facebook is on all kinds of intricate custom settings.  The thing is the pictures you share on those sites are held on photo storage platforms that just about anybody can access.  And if you are sexting those snapshots to someone, you are easily leaving yourself open to a growing viewing audience.  Peek-a-boo, we see you!

Believe me when I say I’m not hating on anybody getting their freak on.  I just want you to be in control of who is privileged enough to see your goods.  If you’re looking for a job, you don’t want potential employers looking at you get it in and shake it fast on YouTube.  Well, unless that is the type of job you are hoping to get.  Then by all means shake it faster.  Even then you want to make sure that “audition” video is getting to the right eyes, or else you are working hard just to give away free shows.

If you are about to share that last clip of you making it rain, think before you upload.  If you’ve been tossing up promiscuous shots of yourself all willy nilly and find yourself prone to overexposure, it’s not too late.  There is help!  There are companies that will clean up our online personality by strategically pouring tons of positive, smart, clean posts on our behalf in order to cancel out the messy stuff.  If you are looking to join a new organization, apply to college or graduate schools, or merely broaden your network, this might be a great option for you.  Whatever your goal is, keep in mind that the only way to keep your raunchy pics and clips private is to keep them off the web and off other people’s smart phones.

Happy New You!

The start of a new year swells with potential for all the greatness we can accomplish over the next 365/6 days.  Considering all the resolutions, plans and hopes to achieve our goals, one of the best and most easily manageable tools we have on our side is self image.  It is all about the personal brand you build for yourself.  What face do you want to put forth, whether in person or on the Internet?  How do you want others to read you?  What reputation do you intend to establish?  A major component of this is getting a handle on etiquette, protocol, and basic manners in any situation from business to social.  The more you improve your etiquette skills, the better your image becomes.  With a more refined image comes more successful networking and greater opportunities.

Think about it!  Colleges are looking for the well behaved student who doesn’t seem like a future liability.  Employers prefer the well mannered employee who comes highly recommended and appears to have good work ethic.  Investors feel more comfortable signing over their money to the entrepreneur who presents his/herself as polished, dependable and confident.

So, look at this as your time to set your image; your brand.  You are welcomed to use this blog as your modern guide for everything from business protocol to digital etiquette, form social etiquette to fashion protocol and more.  We’ll explore together and figure out how to always present you in the best light.  Stay tuned throughout the year and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask them here or catch me in real time on Twitter @DrJaiCupid.

Happy New Year and cheers to a new you!