The SMS code of conduct

2009-08-26 00:00

I WAS having a conversation with my hairdresser about booking appointments. She doesn’t work on a Monday, and we had to cancel an appointment on Tuesday, so I left a message on her cellphone, which she didn’t get.

When we were there for the rescheduled appointment, we discussed the failings of telecommunications for people in a job like hers. She says that although messages sometimes don’t get through, she prefers that people phone her, rather than SMSing, for a number of reasons.

Foremost among these were the fact that she’ll get an SMS saying “i need a haircut!!!”, with no idea who it’s from, when the appointment is needed, or anything else helpful like that.

Also, she frequently travels to visit her daughter overseas, and doesn’t listen to her messages. People who send her SMSes get increasingly shirty with her for not replying, because they

haven’t phoned and heard her message that says she’s out of the country.

At the same time, I know that my beautician, who works for herself, prefers to get appointment requests by SMS, so that she can deal with them between clients. But I always include my name, and one or two general timeframes that would work for me.

Mind your manners

I guess, as with any new technology, the etiquette will work itself out in time. I hardly think that when telephones first came along, people knew how to be polite on them. Then, for a long time, you were expected to introduce yourself on answering, whereas this is now frowned upon on private numbers, in case the caller is a heavy breathing pervert.

But there are a couple of instances where I think that it should be obvious to the sender that he or she is being rude. One that annoys me is when people send through a request for information on SMS.

“Where did u get that handbag i liked the other nght?”

Now, the cost of replying to that might not be the most prohibitive expense in a day of communicating, but if my friend wants something from me, she should pick up the phone and ask me.

“I’m running late c u in 10”, on the other hand, is an acceptable use of SMS.

It’s acceptable for my gardener to send me a “please call me”, but it is not acceptable for me to send one to a client that I am on my way to meet, no matter what my airtime situation.

Breaking the rules

However, for one so glibly confident that I know all the rules in the SMS code of conduct, since the arrival of my baby I have been committing breaches of etiquette almost daily.

If the baby is asleep in my arms — she’s not so crazy about sleeping in her cot in the day — it gives me a few precious moments to catch up on my friendships. So I fire off a couple of SMSes with my phone set to

silent. Most people understand the situation, and respond, happy to hear from me.

One friend, however, is very keen to chat, so she calls me back. I can’t take the call, now because the baby’s sleeping, or later because the baby will be awake. I now start every SMS to her with “Angel asleep in my arms … ” This seems to work.

But while I deal with friends in this offhand manner, and hope that they understand, I would never conduct a business interaction by SMS, unless I know the recipient very well. And I’m often offended by the way companies expect me to SMS them back to tell them about my experience of their service.

Either we’ll work towards a future in which we’ll raise our children to have polite text manners or I’ll just have to accept the fact that cellphones and the Internet are just all-new ways for people to be rude to each other. — News24.

• Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. She holds her cellphone as far away from her baby’s head as possible to avoid frying her brains.

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