How to Make Friends on the Telephone

ThereÌs a very amusing booklet from the 1940Ìs at Contact Sheet. ItÌs full of startlingly obvious advice about how to use the Telephone. Stuff like ÏBe sure of your numberÓ and if you choose to ignore this little gem ÏApologize for wrong numbersÓ.

But then I thought. Actually, wouldnÌt it be great if todayÌs technologists:

1. Understood that their users donÌt have the same grasp of their technology that they do.

2. Explained how to use their technology clearly, simply and in congruence with contemporary society.

WhatÌs especially ignored is some kind of etiquette in using this new stuff Ò like Making Friends on the Telephone. Nowhere is this more apparent than Instant Messaging, but it applies to SMS, email, chat and pretty much everything else.

Taking IM as an example, this is leading to huge problems with kids. Since most communication is non-verbal and since the keyboard removes inhibitions, many a child has got themselves into hot water with their peers over an IM conversation. Giving away too much too soon is a common mistake, to be regretted at leisure. As is passing on dodgy gossip or a quickly regretted bitchy remark.

And, like the Telephone guide, thereÌs no older generation to explain the rules Ò they donÌt know as they have no experience. So a world (and IM is a world) where kids make the rules is going to be a pretty brutal one.

Remember Lord of the Flies?

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