IM Etiquette

In the past few weeks I have been a bit annoyed by people with very little knowledge of IM Etiquette.

See, I have recently subscribed to LinkedIn, Xing and Plaxo… where you can connect with people and try to get jobs. These are a type of Social Networks (i.e. Facebook, Virb,and Myspace) but for grown ups or professionals. I put up my aim account and have been getting random people asking for me to work for them with out any prior introduction.

But this is not only limited to them, people at school, or even friends are doing this. People, now a days can get you screen name of facebook and start talking to you without a clue of whom they are. So in a way I want to make IM’ing a bit more like a conversation and a lot less annoying.

Openings.
A polite “Hi” or “Hello, [first name or last name]”. Beginnings of conversations can be abrupt, it’s true. Try to adjust to that, then state the proper hello. A good actor always says “Yes” to improvisational situations. But do not act random out of the blue unless it is a trait of yours, it may force a conversation and that can be unwelcome.

Have Something to Say.
Don’t IM someone with a greeting and then let them start a conversation with you. It’s probably not a good approach to simply say ‘Hi there…..’ and then say nothing else. This might be OK with someone you know well but with someone that doesn’t know you it’s probably not the best way to make an impression unless you’re going for the ’strong silent (and slightly freaky) type’ impression. Similarly avoid multi tasking if you initiate an IM conversation – if the phone rings consider not answering it or at least telling the other person where you’ve gone.

Don’t IM Someone You Don’t Already Know.
It’s too direct and too invasive, so you won’t get the result you want. Best to start with a call or via email, if you can’t meet in person.

DON’T SHOUT
Unless you intend to.

Over-Emotion.
Do not pour out emotion over an IM. If you feel a need to pour out your emotions, keep in mind you may not express them well through text. This may make the other person feel awkward and it forces them to be your emotional crutch. If you need to talk, do so over the phone or in person. IMs limit emotional capacity since one cannot hear any inflection or tone in voice. This leaves the receiver nearly void of sympathy and does nothing to help either of you.

Capitalization.
An entire conversation in lowercase? Come on, that’s just laziness. Only do so if speed is an issue but it shouldn’t be after you read this list. The Shift key is a thumb space away.

Bombarding.
Unless it’s some sort of joke or prank, don’t leave more than two consecutive messages for someone who you know is away. The same goes for if you’re talking to someone and they don’t respond right away. They may be otherwise occupied. There is no reason for “Hi!”, then five seconds later “Hello?”, then “Anybody home?!”. This elevates into ridiculousness and you’ll only lose the other person’s respect. And they will want to ninja-kick you.

Bad Timing.
If someone sends you an IM and you’re about to leave, tell him or her you’re doing so. Don’t sign off abruptly, that’s just plain rude. Also, if you get an IM from someone you’d just rather not talk to, do not ignore him or her. Give them an excuse if you must. Chances are, though, if they’re on your list, you must’ve had one or two “good conversations” with them. Consistently ignoring them may tatter the acquaintanceship you two have had. I would not address this, however, if I were not guilty of it myself.

Speed.
Not all of us type at the same speed. Sometimes it takes a moment, others could take half a minute. Don’t bombard anyone with text, it insults his or her IM ability. One should not take too long either, chances are the other person has at least one more conversation going on and if you take too long, s/he may forget about you. There is a middle ground we should strive for as Instant Messengers. Patience is required for the fast typists, practice for the slow.

Spelling.
Spelling, people. I cannot stress this enough. We are high school graduates for the most part, many of my friends have indeed attended college, whether part-time or full-time. At this point, we should be able to spell basic words. If you are uncertain, IMs now have a spellchecker. Use it in cases of uncertainty. If you need to correct something, such as “hye” when you meant “hey”, just type it in afterward. And do NOT shorten words like “You” to “u” or “be” to “b”. That’s really not proper and makes you look simple-minded. Whoever started that laziness craze should be fought and defeated.

Read Status Messages.
Nothing is more annoying than to have your status as “Do Not Disturb,” only to be IM’d about a something unimportant. Respect a person’s status!

Abbreviations.
This is tricky. Sometimes they save time, but being the practiced typists we are, it can’t take much longer to type “Talk to you later” than it can “ttyl”. Others, such as “OMG” and “NFW” should only be used for comic purposes. Do not overdo it on them, though, it’s simply annoying and shows a lack of interest in the conversation. “LOL” is perhaps the only acceptable one since it is the only abbreviation that expresses one being amused. An exclamation point at the end would emphasize the point that you were truly amused. “Hahahahaha”… it’s acceptable, but seems to degrade laughter to onomatopoeia, making it detached. Again, an exclamation point comes in handy. Perhaps just typing “Ha!” would exclaim amusement. That remains a work in progress.

Punctuation.
It would be wonderful to see a world where periods ended every sentence. That will never be the case, however. That’s just OCD talking. However, be aware of the emotions expressed through punctuation: ! expresses excitement, amusement, or shock.
? expresses puzzlement, uncertainty, or query.
?! combines the two, forming utter disbelief.
… (ellipses) express impatience, silent anger, thoughtfulness, or continuation.
…? can be used when one is taking too long to answer your question or perhaps to see if they are even paying attention. It seems curt, but it’s far more polite than “Hello?” or “Well?”. Don’t be excessive on punctuation, however. There’s no need for “So, did you find out ??????????????”. Preposterous.

Know When Another Method of Communication is Better.
IM is good for rapid, time-critical communications, but it’s not good for everything. Longer messages or things that need to be communicated to multiple people are better via email. Sensitive or complicated topics are best face-to-face or over the phone. Just because IM is easy for you doesn’t mean that it’s the best use of everyone’s time.

Arguments Are Worse.
IM conversation just has too much latency. You end up arguing the same thing over and over again. Humans tend to assume the worst when there are no physical clues for conversation and that can start arguments in themselves. Emoticons help, but are easily overused and become annoying in their own right.

Be Aware That Some Things Don’t Convey Well in Written Form.
Sarcasm is one thing that often gets people into trouble with IM. Until people know what wave length you’re on it might be worth clarifying attempted humor. Sometimes emoticons (the little faces) can help with this – sometimes they can get you into even more trouble!

Know When the Conversation Ends.
IM sessions aren’t clearly ended by hanging up. If the recipient answered your question, and you didn’t ask another, she likely considers the session over. If you need something else, ask. Otherwise, don’t be offended if you don’t receive “Thanks for the IM. Good bye.”

So there you have it. I’m sure there are other issues that need to be discussed, but these suffice for now. Let’s get over one hill at a time, people.