Frank Manners: Instant Messaging

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May 7, 2014

Instant messaging is now a pervasive technology that influences our business and personal lives. Social media services all have some kind of instant or direct message feature built in. Our mobile and smart phones can send text (TXT/SMS) messages in addition to using a variety of apps and services. Since text is such a quick, and sometimes casual form of communication, do we still need to use proper etiquette when sending messages?
The simple answer is “yes,” but let’s turn this around and focus on you as the recipient of a message. Is there proper etiquette to follow when you receive a message?
If the app or service has options to set your availability status, then it’s a good idea to use them. For example, an important message needs to be relayed to you. If your status is set to Available, the sender might assume that you have read the message. This can set the stage for miscommunication and a higher probability of error. If there isn’t an option to set a status  consider completely quitting the app or not allowing it to connect while you are away.
If you do get a message that you want to respond to, but now isn’t a good time then respond quickly with “I’m busy right now, but I’ll get back to you” and specify the time when you will follow up with them. This way you have set their expectations and set a goal for yourself. Some apps allow you to set pre-defined replies, sometimes called shortcuts, that you can tap in with a single keystroke so you won’t need to write these out each time.
When in doubt, use proper etiquette and not only will you communicate more clearly with your friends and contacts, but you will stand out from the crowd.