A Couple of General Etiquette ThoughtsComplications Ensue
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

These apply to all modern life, but as with everything in showbiz, your social weaknesses will hurt not only your friendships, but your career.

a. Email is not a substitute for calling people.

A lot of people these days will email when they should be calling, I guess out of shyness. In most cases, email is not really the best way to talk to people one on one.

I send emails when I want something on the record, or I want to present all my thinking in one coherent package, or to remind people, or to tell them something totally non-time-sensitive.

I call people when I want to work something out with them, and especially when I want something from them.

Someone I know was recently interviewing child-care workers by email. That's crazy. You want to hear tone of voice. You want to be able to ask follow-up questions. Calling people also takes less time, and people are more likely to bring up new things you might not have thought of, and they will feel they spent time with you, rather than considering you one of the many chores they had to deal with today.

If you want a "yes," ask your question in a face-to-face meeting. People find it much easier to say "no" over the phone; a fortiori by email. If you want to work something out, ask in person or over the phone. Only use email for follow up and to set up phone conversations, and occasionally to lay out an in-depth proposal or argument.

b. Friending is not a substitute for creating a relationship.

What is it with these Facebook friend requests from people I have to look up in my rolodex? What is it with the friend requests from people I can't find in my rolodex? I'm fond of Neil Gaiman, and we even have mutual friends, and he's one of my two writer gods (Joss being the other), but I wouldn't dream of friending him, 'cause we've never met, not even on the phone.

If you just met someone for five minutes and consider yourself their new best friend forever, it would be common courtesy, at a minimum, to include an actual note with your friend request. But the Right Thing to do would be to drop them an email about something you're both interested in, and see if you can strike up a conversation. Or invite them to something. If you're not doing that, then all you've got is a bigger number on your profile.

On the other hand, if you're not on Facebook, you probably should be. An epidemic of Facebook swept through my neck of showbiz about five months ago, and about half of everybody signed on. We got another outbreak a few weeks ago that picked up, oh, another ten percent. You should use all the networking skillz and toolz you can to stay in touch with people. Just, you know, do it like you care.

Oh, and please -- if someone you know tangentially accepts your friend request, and you haven't had any personal contact with them since, do not attack them with your Stealth Zombie. Why this is not obvious to people is beyond me.



Actually no, I'm pretty sure you're Facebooking wrong.

By Blogger Kane, at 7:33 PM  

New social networking fascinates me, and there isn't one obvious way to do it right. I think your principle mostly applies to Facebook, which is primarily designed to support a trust network. With MySpace, I think it's more about publicity, so if you have something to publicize, it's beneficial to mass-MySpace your message. Facebook, not so much--your message will only reach a select few. Of course, mass mailing is not the same as networking.

Apparently the Zombie app and similar apps on Facebook are designed to be aggressively viral. Once you add the application, it immediately prompts you to pass it on to all your friends. A string of old friends have found me on Facebook, and it strikes me as strange that, rather than asking for news and sharing news about where we've been since the last we chatted, I just get, "(person) has added you as a friend. (person) has thrown a sheep at you."

By Blogger Andrew, at 2:44 PM  

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