By Lisa Messinger
Lots of people think texting keeps them connected. What if, like millions of others, though, you are overlooking the two-second, one-word addition that is the true connection, and that could also lose your jobs, respect, and friends?
That word is "Thanks!"
Do you believe niceties like that aren't necessary in the compressed, shorthand social media world? As you increase your virtual "likes" or friend counts, however, you might really be shortchanging yourself and the feelings of those close to you.
I know a college sophomore who missed out on a recommendation for an internship at one of the world's largest media organizations because she didn't say thanks or, for that matter, even acknowledge a text and an email that contained information she requested about the company and the summer position from a close friend of her mother's.
"We're extremely professional here," the management-level sender said. "Even though I've known this person since she was born, I was shocked she didn't take even one second to write 'thanks' - especially when I just had seen her texting nonstop to friends at the party where she had first asked me about my company. How could I feel comfortable recommending her if she didn't even display the most basic courtesy and would very likely do the same to a personal contact of mine in the company? In addition, I began to wonder, what does this say about how responsible or conscientious she might be regarding actual work tasks?"
Similarly, I sent a 16-year-old relative a text about a professional website he created for his writing that the family was buzzing about. I mentioned after my years of writing and supervising writing how I thought it was clear he could be working professionally now and how his arresting work showed a critical eye for detail that would probably help him in every aspect of life. Response: none, as also had been the case when a few months earlier I emailed him about a little-known, respected, exclusive journalism summer camp.
Could this just be a generational faux pas from kids who have grown up 24/7 in the digital age? Scans of chatrooms and other social media hangouts for senior citizens prove otherwise, but I don't have to look that far. I see it every day in texts from friends. I wished a friend a good week with her visiting college daughter, I told another friend I really admired her courage after she told me a very painful personal story, to another, after live texting back and forth, I said that I hoped she would have a good flight and a successful make-or-break sales meeting presentation, about which she texted she was stressed.
Like me, online are you a "thankless" friend because you get thanked less, or, instead, is it because you thank people less? If either scenario makes your days a little less bright, you might want to think about online etiquette.
Since the origins of cyberspace there have been a few big rules that have gotten repeated, like, for instance, not to write big, e.g., in all uppercase letters, because it has been agreed that means one is "yelling." That, though, is a special circumstance regarding the internet. What seems often to have been stripped away in the meantime is a transfer of offline common courtesy to the online arena. This is as basic as what we teach our toddlers, such as saying "please" or "thank you," but has sometimes gotten lost as texts, Tweets and other means of communication have gotten briefer.
Remember, you may have someone on the other end of your social media conversations who is surprised and hurt when they see it as missing. Colleges, especially due to the increase in online interaction, have especially embraced what is often called "netiquette" and point out the difference between the human side of it, as opposed to the technical.
Echoing many other schools, the first words written on the "Netiquette" page of Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland, are: "Most, if not all, of the communication in this course will occur online. It is sometimes difficult to remember that there are real people reading our messages. Words can mean many things, and what we intend to say is not always what others hear.... Users of the internet have come up with guidelines for net communication aimed at lessening the chances of miscommunication and perceived disrespect.
"Well before Twitter and texts, when longer emails were the way of the day, Virginia Shea in her book Netiquette, that is referred to by many universities, like Rutgers, as a guidebook for their online communications, was trying to keep us grounded. Rule No. 1 of her Core Rules of Netiquette is "Remember the Human" and begins, "The golden rule that your parents and your kindergarten teacher taught you was pretty simple: Do unto others as you'd have others do onto you. Imagine how you'd feel if you were in the other person's shoes.... Try not to hurt people's feelings. In cyberspace, we state this in an even more basic manner: Remember the human."
The good news about that is you don't even have to remember how to spell. Social media has done away with much of that, which is another reason I am often amazed that people so rarely say "thanks" online, even in this every-second-counts world. How long, after all, does it take to type "Thx"? That is slang virtually all of us know at this point and that PC.net has classified as "common" and notes has morphed into usage both online and off.
Lisa Messinger has a Master of Science degree in Strategic Communication Management from Purdue University, for which she was also a contracted strategic communications blogger, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California. Lisa has been a Lead Operations Specialist for the RAND Corporation think tank. She is a longtime columnist at Creators Syndicate and before that Copley News Service. She has won multiple national first-place writing awards and is the author of seven nonfiction books, including My Thin Excuse: Understanding, Recognizing, and Overcoming Eating Disorders with Merle Cantor Goldberg, LCSW. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.