View Full Version : One Geek to Another: Texting Etiquette

09-16-2009, 04:03 AM
Texting has become such an integral part of geek culture that it's hard to believe the technology has been in place for less than 20 years. While theoretically less intrusive than voice phone calls, texting's insidious nature has made it an etiquette nightmare, especially for the well-connected geek.

The same quiet and (theoretically) ignorable convenience that makes text messaging seem more polite than a phone call is at the heart of the confusion surrounding text protocol. Unlike a verbal call, the short written messages can wait until a convenient (and polite) time to be read and responded to - but more often than not, this ideal convenience is not utilized by those receiving texts.

Most of us have been on the receiving (and possibly the giving) end of the obvious texting faux pas - one minute you're in the middle of a conversation with someone, the next they're not only checking their phone screen for a text message, but they've begun tapping out a response without so much as a "Excuse me." Knowing that the texter's attention is split, if not entirely refocused, we pause in our conversation and wait for the thumb-typist to finish their response. And, unfortunately, no sooner does our conversational partner hit "SEND" than the texter on the other end of the line begins their return response, resulting in an extended text version of table tennis, as the two volley words back and forth across the cellular waves.

While the technology is fairly new (in the grand scheme of things) there still are guidelines for using text politely, which are almost identical to those used when handling incoming phone calls.

The Basic Rule and the Exceptions

The basic rule for texting is simple. If you're in the middle of a conversation, wait until you're done (or at least in a temporary lull) to check an incoming text. And, as with a cell call, excuse yourself from the conversation if you are going to respond to it.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.

If the entire conversational group is waiting for information in the form of a text, it's certainly acceptable to receive and respond to that information while remaining in the conversational circle. Just remember that this is an information transfer, not an additional conversation. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
If you're expecting an important text for work or family related situations, it's fine to read an incoming text, but a polite "Excuse me, I'm expecting a text from work/my family" at least acknowledges that you are infringing upon the ongoing conversation, rather than leaving those you were talking with feeling as if you've suddenly "checked out" of the conversation for no reason. In this instance, if you're going to respond to the message, taking a step or two away from the conversation will allow it to go on around you without leaving the rest of the group feeling like they're intruding upon your texting by continuing to chat.

If you receive a text during a meal, a movie, a religious ceremony or some other situation where you would not normally take a telephone call, you have two choices. Wait until after the situation has ended to check your text, or excuse yourself and leave the area before checking it.

And one final rule - this one is an absolute no-no. NEVER text while driving. Not only is it illegal in many areas, but according to some studies texting behind the wheel impairs your driving ability as much as being under the influence of alcohol does. Lives have been lost due to negligent driving while texting, and there is no message important enough to risk an accident (or worse).

Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Send us an email (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/sendmessage.php?do=mailmember&u=9844) and your question may get answered in one of our future "One Geek to Another" columns!

For more information about your One Geek to Another hostess, check out Jess' website at: www.JessHartley.com (http://www.jesshartley.com)

09-16-2009, 07:48 AM
I agree completely. I find it annoying when I am talking to someone to have them constantly grab their phone and to hear the ticking sounds as they have another conversation. It is like being cut off in person. If we are talking and engaging in conversation, you wouldn't just turn your back on me and start a whole new conversation without so much as an 'excuse me.'

Of course, I am biased. I am a man of few close friends. I have three really close friends that live near me, and maybe five friends that I talk to on a regular basis. The rest are far away (Hello interweb friends!) I find that when I'm hanging out with my best friend(s) they are constantly texting their boyfriend/girlfriend/extheyarestillinlovewithandwon'tletgo (we have had some interesting social moments ;) )

I am there to hang out with them, or they are at my house to hang out with me, but all they do is text! Drives me insane. Of course, me being the geek/dork/nerd I am, it only really bothers me (IE I say something) when we are either at the game table, or playing video games. "I swear if you pause it one more time to text....I'm killing you. I don't care if we're on teams!"

Thank you Ms. Jess. I need to show this article to a couple of my friends :)

09-16-2009, 09:08 AM
I love texting, I have fully converted as a member of the faithful. Why? Because efficient text messages mean I have to talk less on the phone!

I work in an industry where I have to be accessible 24x7x365 and literally get a little anxious when my phone is not within arms reach. I accept that it has to be while I'm showering, but that's really about it. If my company needs me, they win, that is what my salary says. :D

That noted, Jess's advice is spot on. I do have to interrupt conversations sometimes for an important text, but I always excuse myself, frame it for the people I'm talking with, and then get through the text as quickly as possible; and I only spend time on the important texts. If I'm waiting for an important one and a non-critical message comes in, the moment I identify that I close the message and return to the fun of the people I'm actually with.

As I live in a work culture of people who have to do this, we are all text and phone junkies, so I've seen the worst of it, including people texting play by play summaries of the meetings they are in to others in the company. It's rude to the extreme and annoying. I have had one employee try that so far, and I corrected that after the meeting. It's intolerable unless the person is receiving info about a family emergency -- at which point they should be excused from work so they can be with the family.

...don't even get me started about the people in CA who use their phone while driving. grrr. :D

09-16-2009, 10:34 AM
Actually Grimwell, i'm the same way. I get fidgety when my phone isn't near me. It is kind of an addiction. A sad addiction :D I text all the time. In fact, in the span of typing this I have gotten 2 texts. I, like you, excuse myself though. I always have present company over texting. Especially if it's my mom ;) "Oh you texted me and wanted me to go to the store? Sorry mom, I was driving and didn't want to answer it"

09-16-2009, 04:19 PM
I agree too especially about the driving part. It bugs me when I see someone driving and talking on the phone at the same time. I know that multi-tasking is important these days and people feel a need to stay on top of things but nothing is more important than staying alive. so if you need to talk then pull over and do your thing.

09-16-2009, 07:20 PM
Im personally amazed that we survived so long without texting or cell phones. Outside of work style or home emergencies what is so important that we have to to have the ability to talk to people all the time. I had a coworker the minute she stepped out the door start talking and then plugged in her bluetooth to keep speaking while she drove out of the parking lot. The next day she would come in still speaking on the phone.

I dont get it. and yes I have a cell because I dont have a land line.

09-16-2009, 10:18 PM
I lost my cell for a couple of days once. Felt like I was in heaven.

09-17-2009, 12:30 AM
My cell phone is an albatross (I feel this way about our home phone as well), I would love to drop kick the thing into oblivion and be free. However, I know for a fact that my wife would retrieve it, and then promptly beat me with it. But man, I remember the good old days before cell phones. As for texting, I'm getting to like it more than I used to. Mainly because I bought a new phone with a full keyboard so that I can actually type. The 3-4 letters to a button made texting a nightmare for this large thumbed lumbering Neandertal.

09-18-2009, 09:47 AM
Two things:

One: the phone serves me I do not serve the phone. Any phone. Caller ID is a wonderful thing, and I have noticed that cell phones have an OFF setting. If the thing is too much of a distraction, use it. You will get a list of missed calls. If the call is one I don't need to answer, I don't answer it. If it is important, they can leave a message.

Two: The person in front of me deserves my attention. I might be old fashion in this but I do not take a phone call in the middle of a face to face. People that do really annoy me.

One of the most idiocy filled moments I have ever seen was four people sitting down to lunch together all talking on the phone with someone else. Why did they bother?

Put down the phone, and attend to the people.