Don't b a txt msg abuzr
By TheFeature.com staff, Fri Jun 29 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Top 10 ways to avoid SMS miscues and text-message missteps.


Text messaging is one of the simplest and most useful means of mobile communication. No one can doubt the popularity of text messaging and SMS in particular - more than 50 billion SMS messages were sent across the world's GSM networks in the first quarter of 2001, a fivefold increase over the previous year - and there's no slowdown in sight.

But as text messaging (and mobile phone use in general) grows in popularity, excitement over using new technology clashes head-on with common courtesy, not surprisingly giving rise to a mobile-phone manners backlash.

It's easy for technology to make people lose sight of the real benefits it offers, and cultural differences can often exacerbate the problem. For instance, mobile-phone users in Hong Kong perceive the benefit of a mobile phone as way to stay connected to their world at all times - a high-tech tether of sorts - while Finns see their mobile phones in a much more escapist sort of way - to allow them to stay in touch with their responsibilities and contacts while pursuing more enjoyable activities.

And these views temper how mobile communications and etiquette are viewed. A Finn, for instance, might take offense at an SMS or phone call from a co-worker while on their holidays at their beloved summer cabins, while someone in Hong Kong might interpret a lack of phone calls as a sign that their presence isn't valued by their co-workers. At the same time, "shadow meetings" - sending text messages to others involved in the meeting - may be a fact of life in Finland, but perceived as incredibly rude in the United States.

US carrier Southwestern Bell (now a part of Cingular Wireless) turned to the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute two years ago to promote proper mobile manners to its customers, putting an emphasis on features like vibrating ringing, caller ID, and voice mail to stamp out social miscues.

But it's the simple SMS or text message that can often cause as big a problem as a poorly timed phone call. A general assumption is that since composing and reading a text message doesn't involve talking or audibly interrupting somebody, the medium isn't nearly as intrusive as annoying phone calls. But that's simply not the case. So to avoid SMS miscues and text-message mis-steps, TheFeature compiled a list of top 10 texting guidelines.

1. Common courtesy still rules. Contrary to popular belief, composing an SMS while you're in a face-to-face conversation with someone is just about as rude as taking a voice call. Your companions deserve the respect of your full attention.

2. Remember that SMS is informal. SMS shouldn't be used for formal invitations or to dump your girlfriend or boyfriend. The casualness of SMS diminishes the strength and meaning of the message.

3. Don't get upset if you don't get a reply. Before you text someone and get frustrated at the lack of a response, be sure that they're familiar with how to use the service, and that their carrier will accept messages from yours. This is extremely important in the US, where the minefield of standards and systems means there's a more than likely chance your message won't get to its intended destination.

4. Be aware of your tone. It is extremely difficult to discern tone in text messages, just as in e-mail. What seems to you to be a completely innocuous message may be grossly misinterpreted by the recipient, causing certain discomfort if not irreparable harm. Judicious use of smiles ( :), ;P, etc.) can help some, but remember, the best way to avoid misunderstanding is to actually speak to someone.

5. Don't SMS while you're driving. Talking on the phone is bad enough. You won't know what hit you - or what you hit - if you are pounding out a message on your keyboard.

6. Leave the slang to the kids. Don't expect your stodgy superiors at work to be hip to the lingo of the SMS streets. And don't expect to win points with your kids by trying to be cool, either.

7. Remember that SMS can be traced. Unlike landline phones, SMS messages, just like any mobile phone function, can display the name of the sender. Anonymous messages - if you must send them - are still best sent from Web sites.

8. Be conscientious of others' schedules. Don't assume that because you are awake, working, not busy, or sober that the person you're texting is as well. Many a pleasant slumber have been interrupted by recurring "beep-beep...beep-beeps" of messages of such grave importance as "what are you doing?", "are you awake?", "check out channel 2...it's funny," then the penultimate "why aren't you writing back?", before finally ending with "I guess you aren't getting these messages."

9. If it's immediate, make a voice call. If you can't get through and your text message is ignored, there's probably a good reason. There are still some times when people don't even have a thumb free to respond.

10. Remember that your phone does have an off button. There are very, very few things in the world that absolutely cannot wait.