We all know the world runs on love. But every day, we squander that love by bugging the living crap out of other people, thanks to our careless interactions with technology.
The good news is that there are some simple ways to avoid annoying people online (and off). Here are 8 simple guidelines that I guarantee will make me love you 14.3% more than I do right now.
- Put your phone number in your signature line, and use your sig line every time you email me. I don’t want to go rooting around through your past emails to find the one time you gave me your phone number. You are not being charged by the character, and I swear, including your sig line in every email message is not going to make the Internet slow to a crawl.
- Google before you ask. Don’t send me emails asking for how-tos or factual information you could find yourself in less than 10 minutes of googling. If you think I would immediately have the answer to a question that would take you a couple of hours to figure out, then I’m happy to save you that time.
- Fact check your Internet memes. Before you post the astonishing truth about the consumer product that is secretly killing me, or share that request for donations for the sad person suffering from disease X, take the time to make sure that what you’re sharing is current and accurate. Your best bet is to look at Snopes.com, the one-stop source for fact checking any Internet meme or urban myth. For health-related stories, look at QuackWatch.
- Bcc your group emails. I’m glad to be included in your group email messages announcing the launch of your new business or the birth of your baby. But I don’t necessarily want to share my email address with everyone on your distribution list. Please put our email addresses in the “bcc” field, and only put your own email address in the “to” field.
- Don’t forward chain emails. I don’t care how spiritually uplifting it is: if it asks me to forward this email to five friends, I am going to delete it. Sending it to me is not only a waste of both of our time, but makes me feel lousy for letting you down.
- “Reply all” with care. Some emails do need to be sent to a large group, like the announcement of a new product launch or team member. But the congratulatory or detailed replies often don’t need to make it back to the crowd — just to the author of the original message. So unless your reply is adding value to the whole group, don’t hit “reply all”. And no, showing how thoughtful you are in offering congratulations does not add value to the whole group.
- Offer an explanation before looking at your phone. Hey, I get it: sometimes you need to check your phone, even when we’re in the middle of lunch or a conversation. You may even need to take a call from your boss, your client or your babysitter. But don’t act like it’s a consequence-free distraction: when you break away from our conversation to answer a call or check your email, you’re showing me that there is something more important than our conversation, at least for the moment. So do me the courtesy of asking whether I mind the interruption, or at least, of explaining why this phone call/text message/Words with Friends turn has to happen right now.
- Ask before you introduce me to someone. Unless it’s Barack Obama, Marissa Meyer or Stephen Sondheim, please check with me before you write that email of introduction. I am often happy to help out your student or colleague, and I’m delighted if you refer a potential client I can assist — but I hate to make both of us look unkind or unhelpful if it’s not a fit.
That takes care of my biggest digital peeves. What are yours?