Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You (Via New York Times)

Posted on April 6, 2011 by


In an article recently published in the New York Times, Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You, Pamela Paul discusses our changing use of the telephone and the etiquette we have begun to adopt in relation to it.

“Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward” Paul states, and quoting Judith Martin “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now. I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people. Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me.”

Reading this article made me consider some of the etiquettes of online communication methods, such as Facebook, and email. Here’s a brief look:

Skype calls

I only remember ever receiving one or two Skype calls that were not pre-arranged. Calling out of the blue on Skype, for some reason, seems even stranger than on the phone (which I don’t think is strange, it’s just becoming less common).

Out of the blue video calls could, in some cases, be classed as simply unacceptable.


I know people who insist that their emails are responded to almost immediately, others within 12 hours, others within 48 hours. When going through emails, I try to respond to those that I can in less than 2 minutes, straight away. I try to respond to all emails within 48 hours, even if it is just to acknowledge receipt.

Many people have more than one email account, and it can be a lot to check multiple accounts. Forwarding them all to one account can be easier in certain circumstances.


I only connect with people I actually want to chat with. Sounds obvious,  but I have had friends ask me for advice on how to reduce unwanted chats and to me this seems like the obvious answer. On Gmail, I connect with co-workers and a very small selection of friends. The majority of our chats are very short, just enough to get the point across or get approval on something. If I’m in a meeting, I change my status to “busy”, and occasionally, when I need to work completely uninterrupted, I go “invisible”.

Chat can be a good alternative to the phone call. It doesn’t take all of your attention for the whole duration but it is still possible to have a beneficial discussion. Just to careful if you have more than one chat window open at any one time, and make sure you type in the correct window!


For some people, Facebook is becoming as demanding as a constantly ringing phone. Every new notification calls for immediate action, as we know that if we don’t respond right now, we’ll forget about it and we won’t ever respond.

Even if we’re short for time, we don’t want to upset people, or make them think that their message / post / comment wasn’t important. In reality, I tend to find that when people have something really important to say to you, they’ll do so by email or pick up the phone. Facebook messages are also more difficult to keep track of compared with email, so I tend to use email for more important messages and Facebook much more casually.

Facebook chat is a little bit different as anyone that you are friends with can automatically chat with you. I find that the answer is just stay off-line if you prefer not to chat.

Please comment on the article from The New York Times, and let us know about any other etiquettes that exist with communication tools.

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