Reverend Alex Gee’s Open Letter To UW-Madison, This Week In Washington, Etiquette In the Digital Age

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In this day and age, being constantly connected can make communication harder than ever. How long are you supposed to wait to reply to a text or an email? Should you ever pick up the phone and actually call someone? We find out what etiquette looks like in the digital age. We also get our weekly update from Capitol Hill, and we talk to Reverend Alex Gee about his open letter to UW-Madison over the institution’s reaction to a racist costume at the Badger football game this past weekend.

Featured in this Show

  • Reverend Alex Gee's Open Letter To UW-Madison

    A racist costume at the Badgers game in Madison this past weekend has gotten national attention and led to outrage in the community. The controversial costume included a Barack Obama mask–and a noose around the person’s neck. The noose costume led to several statements from UW-Madison administrators, including one in which campus officials said they asked the man to take off the noose, but they said the display was an expression of offensive but protected free speech. Reverend Alex Gee wrote an open letter to UW-Madison about the institution’s reaction to the costume, and he joins us to talk about it.

  • Etiquette Lessons For The Digital Age

    With digital culture becoming more and more pervasive, we ask our guest: Is it OK to respond to an email with a text? What about a phone call? And why is the most important email in our inbox usually the one that never gets answered? Today, lessons for etiquette in a digital age.

  • To Text Or Not To Text? Communication Etiquette In The Digital Age

    Imagine being snuggled up in bed, about to fall asleep, and your phone starts buzzing.

    Or, maybe you’re at lunch, and a friend won’t stop calling you.

    Then there are the incessant work emails you may be expected to reply to at all hours of the night.

    It isn’t recent news the world is a hyper-connected community, and we’re on-call more than we ever have been before. Not only are we more readily available thanks to technology, some of us feel we’re required to answer every email, phone call, text, Snapchats, Tweets, Facebook messages, etc. – and some feel they’re expected to respond somewhat quickly, even if the original message isn’t urgent.

    In this time of always being connected, navigating a new digital etiquette can be murky and challenging.

    Are we allowed to call someone if they’ve emailed you? How many texts are too many or too few? Is calling rude now? How long can I wait to reply to an email? Do I have to answer my phone … ever?

    With every new and emerging way to stay connected, new questions and anxieties spring up, and people are trying to establish new guidelines for how to communicate politely in the Digital Age.

    One rule of thumb has been if someone calls you, call them back. Or if someone texts you, the proper response is to text back. While this seems like a no-brainer, Amy Alkon, public speaker, author and podcaster, said she thinks that approach is misleading.

    “The thing that you have to do is find out what people’s preferences are and go with them,” Alkon said. “Some people prefer a phone call, some people prefer an email. And especially for people under (the age of) 40, the phone call has become rude.”

    Our approach to the phone and receiving calls has changed over time.

    In previous decades, Alkon pointed out, there were courtesies and protocols surrounding the phone call. People knew not to call during dinner and definitely knew not to call in the middle of the night, barring an emergency. Phone calls are now seen as reserved for special occasions, such as catching up with friends or family, Alkon said. She described the unexpected phone call as “rude” because it isn’t the only quick way to reach someone.

    “We all have these methods of communicating that allow people to get to your communication when it’s convenient for them,” she said. “Basically, (a phone call is) … like walking into somebody’s office, shoving everything off their desk and say(ing), ‘You listen to me right now, you hear?’”

    One thing previous generations didn’t have to contend with were emails, notably, work emails being right on their phones.

    “People’s bosses email them at all hours, and work is so competitive in many areas that people feel compelled to be checking their emails at 9 p.m. when they should be having a life,” Alkon said.

    She recommended people feeling the pressure to send and answer emails all day to limit these communications during normal business hours. She argued managers, in particular, can institute moratoriums on sending and checking emails when people are at home for the evening.

    For people who want to be able to withdraw a bit from the onslaught of texts and emails, Alkon said she thinks people should be proactive and not at the mercy of others when it comes to communication.

    One step Alkon has taken is putting her phone in airplane mode before going to bed, blocking nearly all signals to her phone. But Alkon doesn’t recommend cutting oneself off from the technological world entirely and reconciles the fact email and phones are a part of our daily lives, but how people approach technology and their availability is up to themselves in many ways.

    But, since people aren’t emailing or calling in a vacuum, the topic of timeliness is important to consider.

    “Technology makes an instant response possible, but it doesn’t mandate it,” she said.

    When people send a text or an email, there is an unspoken expectation of a speedy response.

    While Alkon doesn’t advocate for ignoring emails or feeling pressured to respond immediately, there are steps people can take to make sure their needs are being met without being impolite to the person reaching out.

    One example is if someone emails with a time-sensitive email and you feel pressure to respond immediately, you can simply respond acknowledging you have seen their message and a response is on its way. Or, if you’re sending an email requiring a quick response, you can write in the subject line it is time sensitive.

    In the end, our lives are complicated. Made slightly easier at times by the advent of technology and more confusing, and sometimes more stressful. So perhaps as people navigate the evolving technological terrain, we go back to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. And maybe save the texts for an hour when people aren’t asleep.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Alex Gee Guest
  • Amy Alkon Guest

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