Are there Ways to Make a Timely Response to Messages in the Digital Age?

| March 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Recently I searched on the “interwebs” to see what other people consider a timely response to emails, RSVP requests and other messages like voice mail and social media DMs (direct messages). I regret to say that I did not find Miss Manners especially helpful. She suggested that you should respond to email within 24 hours or have an ‘out of office’ reply set up if you will be away for longer than that. I’m not sure what century Miss Manners lives in, but that feels like very 20th century advice to me.

What I didn’t find, but was looking for, was advice on how to deal with more correspondence than you can possibly manage or even see on a daily basis. I found several great articles that acknowledged how difficult it can be to get a response with ideas for how to make your emails or messages more succinct, to-the-point and easy to respond to by a busy correspondent. I did not find any advice for the recipient of so many succinct and (even more) un-succinct emails & messages everyday.

I also didn’t find any etiquette ideas for how to deal with the reality that technology has splintered the ways we can be connected so much, that it is entirely possibly that an ‘ignored’ message actually was never seen by the recipient. I had hundreds of messages in my Facebook inbox from people I wasn’t ‘friends’ with that I had never seen, two years ago, when I first discovered this ‘other’ box on the Facebook system (some of which were from family members, so definitely not intentionally ignored).

Sometimes we send texts that are never received, write heartfelt messages to old email accounts that are never seen and try to contact someone on social media who rarely (if ever) checks that account. Younger generations often let this random communication go as just an ordinary part of life, but I grew up in a world where you could find someone by phone and address and not much else. If you wrote a letter or called them and they didn’t respond, you could assume they ‘just weren’t that into you’. But now, an ignored message means what? That they didn’t see it? That the person was too busy? That it got buried under 100 other messages?

So how can we be sure we are as connected as we want to be? How do you handle an overflowing email inbox? I definitely can’t respond to emails within 24 hours consistently – there are not enough hours in the day (even if I didn’t eat or sleep). And many people I would love to chat with or meet for coffee get ignored in my inbox because I’m frequently in triage mode. Maybe I’m just spread too thin, personally, but I hear this sentiment from a lot of people, especially other working moms. I’d love to hear what has worked for others since I’m getting weary of starting all my emails with “mea culpa”.

Category: Our House

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.