Unless, of course, you have teenagers — in which case you text them nearly 100% of the time. In fact, they would be perfectly happy if you didn’t force them to talk about their day/lives/dreams at dinner and instead spent the whole meal face-planted on the mobile screen. God forbid anyone is later than 10 seconds responding to the emergency of finding “something to do tonight.”
While technology has given us the opportunity to be connected with people 24/7, it has also enabled us to avoid one another like never before. Nobody really believes you when you say, “Oh, really, I didn’t get your email, maybe it went into spam…” or “Really? I JUST got your (text, VM, email, snail mailed letter) about 15 minutes ago…”
But there is enough technology involved to at least let that seed of a lie germinate. But really, all you’re doing is making a judgment call, that what you are doing at the moment is more important than what the person on the other end of the communication has to say — unless you are 15, and there is some terrible urgency to respond regardless of your true interest.
We have a landline that is never answered. That’s because the only people who call it are trying to sell us something. If it’s someone we really want to hear from, they will call our cell phones, right? We have listed the landline number with every Do NOT CALL list in the Western hemisphere. Yet still they call with “urgent” messages that in the end are come-ons.
I can remember the day when your parents used to put time limits on your phone calls with your boy/girl friend because, left on your own, you would moon over the phone for two or three hours. Now the only reason to have a landline is to hook it up to a fax machine once in a while.
One of my clients uses a service that can tell them how many reporters open personalized emails that contain PR announcements. We are supposed to be thrilled if the open rate hits 40%. Which is a number that probably corresponds to your own inclination to open emails from folks who are not on your contact list.
Then there are the emails you open and put aside to respond to when you are less busy, but never get to. So your response rate is probably in the neighborhood of 10% to 20% — and only then because that includes responding to your friends and family.
Hardly anyone has a cell phone that does not tell them instantly who is calling them so they can quickly hit the ignore button. It is not personal. You are making that value judgment again. But I also suspect that you don’t bother calling back MOST of those who leave voice mail messages.
I am amused when clients tell me to call this or that reporter — as if they answer their phones. You could be calling to say a meteor is headed right for their office, and they wouldn’t pick up. In the arcade game that is PR, most reporters think that not responding is their way of saying they are not interested in whatever you are selling. So you come to adore those who bother to respond with a “no thanks” — and prize those who tell you why not.
Does it hurt your feelings when nobody comments or likes something you post to social media? Do you read the silence as a judgment on your choice of content? Or maybe you pissed them off once, and they are giving you the silent treatment. In the absence of feedback, you are left to dissolve in a puddle of self-doubt.
Similarly, not having your call, text, email or letter answered hurts your feelings on some small level. Yet you do it to others. Welcome to the dawning of the New Age of Electronic Anxiety.