“You don’t write, you don’t call.” To this statement you can now add “you don’t e-mail, you don’t text, you don’t Tweet.” When learning about and using new forms of communication, we’re now asked to learn the new guidelines of communicating that go along with them. I’ll get to those in a minute.
          As we’re all aware, communicating has changed significantly in the last several years. It’s easy to communicate and do it quite effectively if you’re standing in front of the person. You’re able to speak and use hand gestures, facial expressions and intonation to get your point across. “I don’t think so,” can be a straightforward response to a question, a flip remark to a comical situation or a sharp retort to a perceived injustice. The meaning is identified by all the other ‘stuff’ that goes along with the words.

Back then …

          Remember when we used to write thank you notes with fountain pens and Eaton stationary? You do if you’re a senior like me. After Christmas and birthdays, it was required in my household to create these little expressions of gratitude for grandmothers and other relatives. I hated writing them, but I loved receiving them when I was the gift giver. I still have friends who have taken the written “Thank You” to an art form and send them out for much lesser reasons including a dinner or a party. But I tell the nephews and the step-kids not to bother having their little ones send these laborious cards. It’s sufficient to just shoot me an e-mail saying that they got the whatever.

Communication These Days …

          I recently attended a Senior Expo in my community where I shared information about this blog. To get this page where you see these words, you have to be plugged in, have access to the Internet and be savvy enough to navigate your way in and out. I tried guessing before the event what percentage of seniors who came by my table would claim, proudly or otherwise, a solid lack of interest and even a distain for all things computer-related. I thought it might be 50-50. But I was wrong.

          The vast majority of seniors I spoke with that day embrace, to various degrees, this electronic form of communication. Some people said they squeak by just using e-mail and others said they, like me, live in e-mail, Facebook and the Internet throughout most days. The minority of seniors who stay as far away from the Internet as possible are also not going to even dip a toe into e-mail. Evidently that fact frustrates their families and friends who routinely rely on electronic mail to connect and to inform. The same goes for tweeting; if you’re not on line, you’re not connecting via Twitter.

          My experience has been that the seniors who are likely to use text messages are among the computer literate group even though texting is done via a Smartphone or iPhone and not a computer per se. I love text messages to quickly inform rather than to engage in a protracted conversation. “See you at 5” is more likely a text message rather than a question like “How was your day?”

Rules, Suggestions, Guidelines…call them what you like

          Over the years, new practices have been developed to accompany the various forms of electronic communication. Some people refer to them as rules. I think of them as suggestions or guidelines. You won’t be dropped from the social registry for doing things incorrectly in the e-communication venue, but you may not send the message you intended to your audience if you don’t at least pay attention to the major guidelines.

          First and foremost, remember this:  typing words via an e-mail, Twitter or text messages excludes all those wonderful, and, yes, sometimes irritating, body and facial gestures that almost always enhance the meaning of the spoken word. Written messages, in general, are flat words and their meaning, without hand movement, facial expressions and voice intonation, can be misread. Be careful with humor and sarcasm. Many arguments are started and feelings get hurt when words are not interpreted correctly by the receiver. Better to save any message that might be misunderstood for the face-to-face meetings, if possible.

          Along these same lines, never use an e-mail or other electronic messaging to communicate something that needs to be said in person. We’ve all heard about getting a “Dear John” message via e-mail. Confrontation can be uncomfortable and the tendency may be to hide behind a non-personal e-mail. Don’t do it. It can be rude, hurtful, and confusing at best. I’ve learned this the hard way myself.

          Other suggestions for the best electronic communication:

                    and is considered to be annoying.

           -Many people feel it’s ok to forego proper grammar and
                   any letter formatting in
e-communications. While
                   I may not always start my e-mails with “Dear So  
                   and So,” I do use correct grammar and punctuation                     throughout. But then I’m a writer, so I must, no??
           -Be sure to use the Subject line to let the reader know
                  what the message is about.

           -Keep it short and simple. Reread your message before
                  sending and delete any unnecessary verbiage.

           -Don’t forget to Spell Check.

          A personal pet peeve is when I get an e-mail that has been forwarded from the sender’s brother’s niece’s secretary’s father. There are so many addresses and messages of the previous receivers to wade through before I get to the cartoon, joke or kitty montage that the sender thought I might enjoy. You can delete all those forwarded messages and e-mail addresses before you send it to your crowd and delete the RE: in the subject line. If you can’t figure out how to streamline these kinds of messages, let me know, and I’ll walk you through it. Deleting all the previous addresses and comments makes the receiver feel special — that you intended the cute/funny/informational thing just for them!

Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up

          I know that electronic communication can be confusing and not the easiest for those of us who spent the majority of our lives in face-to-face interaction. Sometimes, rather than learn the correct way to use e-mail and other forms, we plunge ahead and plead ignorance when we screw up. I encourage you, however, to take the time to learn the proper ways to communicate with electronic devices. I guarantee it’ll pay off in terms of being heard and, who knows, some of the younger members of your family might just be blown away by your acumen. It’s always fun to surprise kids these days.

One of my less than pristine forms of communication.

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Reach out to me at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com