There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that technology has changed the way we live, work and play. It’s changing every day in fact! We don’t have to leave home to do research, rent a movie, shop, or even see our friends’ faces. It’s truly amazing how quickly and dramatically technology has changed our everyday lives.
Despite iPads, 3D television, and the wonders of Skype, one of technology’s greatest wonders, in my own opinion, is the cell phone. It seems in a matter of 10 years (10 years ago I had my first Nokia bar phone), we have gone from owning ‘mobile telephones’ to ‘mobile do-everything devices’. Cell phones now seem to function less as actual phones and more as computers, calendars, and entertainment. Sometimes, it even seems as though we humans are completely revamping the laws of communication. Where once a phone call was expected, now an e-mail is considered to be acceptable. Text messaging has in many places replaced voice calling. This article from 2008 states that Nielsen Mobile of the Nielsen Company reported the average mobile user sends 357 text messages to 204 voice calls (incoming or outgoing). Checking up on friend is as easy as a “What’s up?” text and a picture message is a fun way to make a joke. Whether this type of communication is wildly different than twenty years ago, is not a question, but a fact. The questions arise, when we begin to think about applying traditional etiquette rules to this progressive style of communication. Can we text an RSVP? Is it ok to e-mail an invitation? And the rules only get trickier when we venture into the professional realm.
Clearly, e-mail communication has become a staple in the business world and social media is making leaps and bounds as well. Still there are lines to be drawn when it comes to professionalism and communication. Some companies have screened potential and current employees’ personal Facebook pages and individuals have even been fired for content posted on personal social media sites. We even see it with professional athletes and other celebrities, how much importance can be placed on these seemingly harmless diversions, for example, Kansas City Chief’s Larry Johnson’s tweets using an anti-gay slur that earned him a suspension. The bottom line is that there is a fine line of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to our technologically driven forms of communication in the workplace.
I’m just as guilty as the next person of using technological communication as a short-cut. I have texted friends to arrange a meeting, I’ve used Facebook to announce my unborn child’s gender, and I have e-mailed my fair share of resumes to employers. My number one pet peeve when it comes to modern communication is text speak! Though I myself am guilty of it, I still despise the very idea of it. I’m a writer and it absolutely drives me mad that it seems some people don’t even know how to spell, capitalize or punctuate their own words anymore. I blame it largely on texting. I text so much and it is so time consuming that I literally get too lazy to use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar; something that I normally pride myself on! Imagine me, an English and literature nerd, texting ‘thx’, ‘plz’ and ‘omg’; it’s ludicrous, but absolutely true! My biggest fear is that someday I will forget and accidentally send an e-mail to an employer with a ‘ttyl’ in it! Can we get so used to communicating this way that we actually become less intelligent? Whether or not we can, it’s best not to get in the habit of letting that sort of thing hold us back in the professional world. I’m almost 100% sure a potential employer will be immediately turned off if your correspondence includes text speak or lacks punctuation and capitalization.
It’s a dangerous tight rope we walk when we use technology to communicate in our business ventures. It can become too easy to slip into a casual tone or forget a comma here or there. This is especially true in a business that is born from technology. Virtual assistance is an industry that is created by the very idea of using technology to communicate. However, potential clients can only gauge your credentials and experience from what they see written on the screen. If your e-mails or blogs, tweets or other materials are unprofessional, chances are the professionals are not going to want to do business with you.
So no matter what your business is, it’s important to remember to keep it professional. Proofreading is key and perhaps it might be a good idea to get out of the habit of taking short cuts with your communication altogether. Nowadays, it’s just far too common that people are judged professionally by what they present personally. It may be unfair, but it is not unusual. Don’t let the wonders of technology trick you into throwing away your professional reputation!