Precedence is an important property to understand. If you are sitting in a pub with friends and someone sends an SMS text message to your mobile phone, then the conversation you are having with your friends should take precedence over the text message…
This does not seem to be happening. I leave my mobile at home when I go to the pub to socialise. Two reasons. I don’t want personal e-interruptions and, moreover, I don’t want to be called back home for trivial non-emergencies while I am enjoying a pint…or two with friends. If it’s a real emergency, they can call the pub’s phone!
Likewise, if you are sending an email or text chatting casually on your favourite IM program (Skype, for instance) and a work colleague steps into your office, do not hold up your hand to finish typing the football scores or your witty remark about Britney’s latest hairstyle, or lack thereof. Talk to the face, the hands should not be fiddling and the thumbs shall not be twiddling.
It is all about precedence, as the title of this article hopefully makes obvious. Modern communication is like a game of rock-scissors-paper, except the loop is not closed. Face to face beats phone, in turn, phone beats, instant messaging, which beats email and SMS. But, because the loop is not closed, neither email nor SMS beats face!
It was actually the creator of this site, Wayne Smallman, who inspired this post and it languished for a short while in my editing queue. He took the precedence principle to heart during an IM chat. One of his clients phoned, while Wayne and I were e-chatting about some aspect of blogging software. Of course, phone beats IM, so he went quickly offline and only came back on to say bye, once he’d finished the conversation. It’s only polite, after all.
This guest blog post is I feel turning into one of those life-hack type posts, rather than focusing on any single technology, it’s all about improving your internal software and content management system. The whole idea of our becoming purely e-communicators and essentially side-stepping face to face contact conflicts harshly in some sense with what it actually means to be human. Admittedly, we all have more and more virtual friends, especially as even non-techy acquaintances are hitting Facebook. The whole Second Life experience, of course, takes this evolution to its logical conclusion.
Of course, that all said, there are times when you might be Twittering or Powncing and fancy a chat with a random stranger who happens to be on your wavelength, it’s an important part of growing in the electronic age and it allows you to meet, virtually, almost anyone from Alaska to Zambia. It’s possible even that your new virtual friends could become true IM friends, emails might even be shared, perhaps at a push, phone numbers. Ultimately, there might even be a chance to meet up, down the pub for one, or two, swift pints. But, please, do remember to practice safe Skype.
David Bradley is a freelance science writer and journalist based in Cambridge, England. He has contributed to a wide range of publications including American Scientist, Popular Science, New Scientist, as well as running his own blogging tips and tricks ‘blog at Sciencetext.com