April 17, 2011

Sent from Mobile Device

I have no problem admitting that I was late jumping on the SmartPhone train. My droid and I weren’t united until Christmas 2010. I wasn’t upset at this delay. I couldn’t understand why somebody like me would ever need a smartphone. I was attached to my computer enough as it was (is). I didn’t need to be able to check my email 24/7. It wasn’t like I was conducting business deals in Milan – I was getting notifications about the due date of library books. Once I got my phone, however, my perspective changed. I didn’t take long before I became “one of those d-bags that gets an email on their phone, marks it as read, but never actually reads it or gets back to you.” How many times a day does your phone go off with some new message as seemingly inconsequential as the last? I tried to organize the emails with labels and attach stars to emails I really needed to get to.

Now I’m not saying that smartphones are this inherent evil that needs to be eradicated. I’m not encourage iPhone and Blackberry users to come together for a collective phone smashing nor am I suggesting we revert back to the rotary phone (although the retro feel does have some kind of attractive aesthetic). I’m saying that smartphones have taken an already arguably impersonal form of communication (e-mailing) and added another degree of separation.

I remember the annoyance I used to feel when I received emails with that obnoxious little tag at the bottom –

  • Sent from my iPhone
  • Sent from my Blackberry

I used to respond – “Not sent from my phone” and “Sent from an actual computer”

On average emails sent from phones are shorter and more concise. On one hand, that’s great. Decisions get made and information gets transmitted faster. On the other hand, I have to say that it’s disheartening to write out an email only to receive a one or two word reply in response. One of my professors is so brisk with his email replies that for a while I thought he sent all of them through his phone. At the very least, such stunted responses are impersonal; at worst they’re rude. Trying to type out anything beyond a few sentences on a phone can get pretty tedious. I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself trying to reply to an email on my phone before realizing that I don’t have to peck away on my touchscreen. I have an actual computer I can use.

Whether responding from your mobile device or computer, common courtesy should still reigns supreme.

(Comic via Meet the Introverts via Creative Commons)

April 10, 2011

Opposable Phones

You’re walking along, enjoying a beautiful 80 degree April day when BAM! a complete stranger runs into you. Why? They’ve had their head down engrossed in the contents of their cell phone.

You’re in line at the Loop pondering between a Loop and Swiss burger or grilled chicken sandwich when BAM! you’re inundated with the details of a stranger’s conversation. Why? They’re talking far too loudly on their cell phone about far too personal information.

You’re sitting at dinner with your friends at Sushi Love when BAM! you have to repeat a question to your friend. Why? They’re too busy looking at their plastic phone to pay any attention to the humans around them.

I know I’m not the only one to have found myself in similar situations to those above. Perhaps, I’ve even been that unknowing stranger perpetrator. The fact, is our phones are like an additional limb. We’re constantly attached to them and without them we feel lost.

This post, however, is not to dwell on our scary dependence on cellular phones. Instead, it is to offer some tips on how to manage that dependence in respectful ways.

  • There is a Time and Place for Everything

  • The Golden Rule

  • Remember a Time without Cell Phones

I’m not so sure I agree with MG Siegler that using your phone in social situations makes them more social. I’m more inclined to think that we were communicating and socializing just fine before cell phones took over. I’m certainly not advocating disregarding an obviously critical technology but if we don’t draw the line at the dinner table where do we draw it? In classrooms? Funerals? Bathrooms? Once upon at time, we didn’t have cell phones. We weren’t connected with each other and the rest of the world at large 24/7. And while we are connected now, we should be mindful of our habits. Nobody wants to be run into, ignored, or forced to listen to somebody else’s conversation. If a practice annoys you when others do it, make sure to abstain from that behavior yourself. If all else fails, you can always power down for awhile.

April 3, 2011

BrittDubs is typing…

A quick tutorial on instant messaging!

Time lapses in instant messaging is one of the most trying aspects of this technology. Often people forget to sign out so I end up sending them messages (sometimes time relevant) that end up being useless. Other times people walk away from their computers without saying so. I’m left staring at the screen anticipating a message that will never come. What might be even worse are those who claim that they’ll BRB (be right back) when in fact it turns out that they actually meant BBL (be back later).

FYI, I love acronyms, but we all know that sometimes too much of a good thing can be too bad. IKR? I used two in the previous paragraph, but those are fairly well known. When you can, use acronyms people will readily understand. If not, your messages can become confusing and needless ambiguous (WTF). Acronyms save time, but not that much time IMO.

Emoticons are cute and a well placed smiley can quickly diffuse an escalating situation, but use these sparingly. I, for one, don’t particularly appreciate being bombarded with countless winky faces and the like. More often than not, I find them simply conversation fillers (like LOL). They’re used when you don’t actually have anything to say which isn’t great news for the people conversing.

March 27, 2011

Anonymous is All of Us

If I had to put my real name with this, would I hit “publish?”

If the answer is no, the better move might be to hit “delete.” – Mark Memmott

More often than not, people don’t consider Memmott’s thought process. They press “post” with no hesitation. The result (far too often) is disparaging, rude, and immature comments on blogs, articles, and YouTube videos. We all know the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” While I still think that aphorism has weight, I’m sure it was said assuming that the comments would be said in the person’s face. There would be a personal element that the Internet has effectively destroyed. Many times you don’t know who is making offhand comments or why. There can be no punishment or condemnation for statements that go unattributed.

For whatever reason, there is something about the Internet (and anonymity especially) that changes people. People develop two different personas – the one they display online and the one in real life. Sometimes, those two aren’t congruent. When you’re on the Internet, you can literally be anything and anybody. There is no authenticity scanner.

For that reason, I think people get bold on the Internet. They develop this confidence that borders on arrogance. They can say whatever they feel regardless of how it affects others. Why? Why not? It’s only the Internet, right? That the Internet is some fake place with fake people with no feelings just isn’t true. I’ve often witnesses forum disputes where users have been mocked for being “butthurt” and have sarcastically quipped, “The Internet is srs business.”

On some level I do think people should take statements from unidentified strangers with a grain of salt, but virtue of being an unidentified stranger doesn’t give anybody the right to be rude. To suddenly forget common courtesy or to believe manners don’t exist online is just false.

What if your name and face was attached to everything you did online?

March 20, 2011

Picture (Un)Perfect

We all remember Myspace, right? If you don’t, then you’re a lucky one. Myspace was one of the first popular social networking sites. It quickly dropped of the radar after Facebook was introduced, and already had a questionable reputation for allowing too much unsolicited contact between older and younger members.

In any event, one aspect of Myspace we can’t seem to shake are unfortunate profile pictures. While having these aren’t necessarily rude, they won’t do anything for your popularity or credibility for that matter.

Instead of telling you what you guys should do, I figured I’d give some examples of what to avoid.

BrittDubs shows an example of Duck Face
Can you find BrittDubs
Screenshot of the movie Kazaam
BrittDubs at Rest Stop
BrittDubs Myspace Post
  • Duck Face – A picture in which the chief goal is to make your lips as pouty as possible. AntiDuckFace is a website with no shortage of examples of this one.
  • Where’s Waldo – A picture where it is difficult to pinpoint where you are
  • Not you – A picture that doesn’t actually depict you. It can be anything from a cartoon to scenery
  • Bathroom/Mirror – A picture taken in a bathroom/and or taken in a mirror (most often taken with a cell phone)
  • Classic Myspace Pose – A picture that is a self portrait taken from above. Notice the lack of picture rotation

Happy Picture Taking!

March 13, 2011

Textually Active

Before I get to some texting tips I wanted to mention that the more I continue with this blog the more I’m finding that I seem to be focusing less on things that are rude/impolite and more on that which is just downright annoying. Then again, maybe avoidance of obnoxious behavior is the way to be polite nowadays…Just a random thought.

WARNING – The following might be a tad persnickety.

Sometimes I don’t mind that my cell phone wants to predict what I want or will correct my mistakes for me. Other times, technology works against you. Just take half a second more to proofread your texts.

I love a good joke as much as the next person but unless it is gut-bustingly funny, pass on forwarding it to everyone on your contact list. Along the same vein, stop chain letters in their tracks.

-One word responses-
Just no. I’m not advocating entire full blown conversations via text but there are few things more aggravating then getting a text that only says things like:

  • k/kay/ok.
  • ya.
  • lol.

You might as well come out and say that you don’t want to talk to me.

-Timely Responses-
I understand that people get busy and that you can’t possibly spend all of your time texting, but try to respond in a timely manner. This is especially true if you’re the one to initiate the conversation. On the other hand, keep in mind that sometimes a response isn’t needed least you get that pesky one word response.

I’m terribly guilty of being on my phone while I’m with friends and it isn’t the way to go. Put the phone away when in social situations – pay attention to the people around you (especially on dates). Also, text in appropriate places. Obviously during a movie isn’t one. Keep the “Bathroom Rule” in mind.

-While Driving-
Another thing you simply don’t do. This isn’t even about manners, it’s about safety. Nothing is so important that you need to endanger your life or the lives of others.

-With a Purpose-
There is nothing wrong with shooting the breeze with someone but I find the “Hey. Hi. Done.” conversations to be useless.

-Under the Influence-
I know the old adage that a drunken man’s words are a sober man’s fault, but put the phone away while you’re intoxicated. Very few good things come from drunk texting. (Despite what Texts From Last Night and My Drunk Texts want you to believe. It’s only funny when it isn’t happening to you.)

Who you text and what you text should be private. Always ensure that any explicit content is wanted by the other party. Remember that you never actually know who might have possession of that phone. Beware of unintended recipients.

-Mass Texting-
Just because communicating with each other is easier, that doesn’t mean it should be any less personal. I appreciate wishing me a happy holiday, but some of the sincerity is taken away when you send the same message to everyone.

March 6, 2011

Digital Decorum Glossary

The lexicon of our digital age is constantly growing and expanding. “Text” and “facebook” have become well known verbs. I will admit that I’ve actually said “LOL” out loud before. The lingo of the digital world has transplanted itself into the non-digital is some very striking ways. Below I’ve given the definition (thank you Wikipedia!) to a few words that I think have a particular significance (one that is unfortunately negative) when it comes to digital decorum.

  • Fail Whale* – A user who uses Twitter “improperly”
  • Fisking** – point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement, article, or essay.
  • Flaming – also known as bashing, is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users.
  • Google bomb/Googlewashing – practices intended to influence the ranking of particular pages in results returned by the Google search engine, in order to increase the likelihood of people finding and clicking on selections in which the individual or other entity engaging in this practice is interested.
  • Hack – refers to the re-configuring or re-programming of a system to function in ways not facilitated by the owner, administrator, or designer.
  • Hate site – A website that uses hate speech. Most of these sites contain Internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint.
  • Owned – originated among 1990s hackers, where it referred to “rooting” or gaining administrative control over someone else’s computer.
  • Shock site – a website that is intended to be offensive, disgusting and/or disturbing to its viewers, containing materials of high shock value which is also considered distasteful and crude, and is generally of a pornographic, scatological, extremely violent, insulting, painful, profane, or otherwise provocative nature.
  • Spam – the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.
  • Troll – is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.


Zero Tolerance to Spammers, Stalkers, & Trolls

(Graphic via Flayme shared via Creative Commons)


*This is a term I’ve made up and defined myself.

**This term was brought to my attention from my professor.

February 27, 2011

Information of the Personal Sort

“Today anyone on the Internet can find out more about what you read, think, and earn than the secret police of Stalin or Hitler could have learned.” – Robert Scheer


I have stalking in quotes because while it is a word we toss around a lot, its definition is very serious.

Stalking refers to harassing or threatening behavior that is engaged in repeatedly. – Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Because I’m using stalking here in a more informal and less malicious form, the quotes are necessary. The stalking I’m referring to starts and stops at the information gathering stage and never becomes harassment.

I’ve googled myself. I’ve googled my friends and I’m sure you have to. I’ve done so just to figure out what’s out there, but what about googling people you don’t know? Or using Spokeo or another white/yellow pages site? Many people do casual/impromptu background checks on others (especially in the online dating scene) and with arguably good reason. You never really know who you’re talking to. Knowledge, after all, is supposed to be power, but where do you draw the line? Just because it may be easy to find out about people online, that doesn’t mean you should do it.

I think the issue occurs when you act on the information you’ve found. It’s one thing to “stalk” somebody’s facebook and go through their pictures and quite another to look up their address or telephone number and make unsolicited calls or visits. I hope that example doesn’t sound too extreme because I think it happens more often than we think. On a more basic level, I once received a facebook message from a guy who knew a mutual friend and had “seen me around” with the mutual friend. That was a bit unsettling to say the least.


Don’t divulge all of your information – names, social security number, passwords, phone numbers, addresses/locations, and photos. These two tips from Psychology Today are just as relevant for teens as they are for adults.

Remember everything you post online is public. It doesn’t matter whether or not you delete the message or text. If you’ve published it it’s traceable. When you post things online your creating a cyber fingerprint.

Don’t give out personal and confidential information online. Never share your full name, home address, phone number, Social Security number, passwords, names of family members, or credit card numbers.

Consider Evan Raitliff’s story – he attempted to vanish while challenging the world to find him. Not to spoil the story, but Evan was found. His pursuers were able to track his whereabouts through technological means – IP addresses, video cameras, and ATM transactions – but they were also able to find him because they knew about his interests. I don’t think any of the people searching for Evan had any malicious intent, but imagine if they had with the kind of information they were able to generate. The sheer volume is both impressive and scary. Even more daunting? It appears that all the information was gathered legally. That isn’t to say you should be George Orwell 1984 paranoid, but it would be remiss not to proceed with caution.


Not talked about necessarily within my age group, but I think that putting your info out there also makes you susceptible to identity theft. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that all a criminal might need is your birth date and location to accurately guess your social security number. Credit cards and other financial information can be stolen as well as something as simple as a picture. Somebody could steal one of your photos and masquerade as you or use your likeness to pretend to be another person.


When I looked up my mom on Spokeo and found her cell phone number there for the world to see, I immediately set out to figure out how to get the information deleted. If you know what information about yourself is out there, then you’ll be better equipped to figure out how to take it down.

The bottom line is to be smart about not only what information you put out but what you do with the information you are given.

February 20, 2011

Beware the Fail Whale

Twitter's Fail Whale

Fail Whale actually refers to the above image – displayed (with unmitigated frequency in the past) to alert Twitter users that the site was over capacity. Sarah Perez offers a fuller Story of the Fail Whale.

For my purposes, I’m defining a fail whale as a user who disregards the following rules/commandments for proper Twitter usage. As always the Twitter etiquette (Twitequette) are my beliefs and the compilation of prevailing opinions. Hopefully these will help users avoid not only other fail whales but prevent them from becoming fail whales themselves.

I. Be You – If you’re going to be a fake say so, but it is probably better to leave the parodying to the big boys – Lord Voldemort, DaggumRoy, etc.

II. Always leave them wanting more – You don’t have to post everything (or anything at all). Don’t forsake real face to face conversation.

III. Direct Messaging – Avoid direct messaging people you don’t know. Messages from strangers are typically unwanted, as are mass messages and automatic messages.

IV. Following/Unfollowing – Unfollowing is a bit less intense than defriending, so don’t feel obligated to continue to follow people. Just because somebody follows you doesn’t mean you have to follow them.

V. Think Before You Tweet – Once it’s gone. It’s gone. You can’t get back what you tweet, even if you delete it. (The Library of Congress is archiving all public Tweets). Don’t put your digital foot in your mouth and shy away from twit-fights.

Generally –

  • Everything in moderation (tweets, RTs, @s, #s).
  • Spam is bad.
  • Time and place are everything. You wouldn’t tweet from a funeral would you?
  • Be mindful of the 140 character limit. You’ll have to keep your content short & concise. Modified grammar rules just for Twitter can help.
  • Be weary of the mob mentality. Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it too.
  • Don’t perpetuate wrong or unverified news like the death of celebrities.

For more check out:

10 Commandments of Twitter Usage

Tweeterland – How to Use Twitter

Margaret Mason – 14 Ways to Use Twitter Politely

9 Essentials of Twitter Etiquette

What rules would you give for proper Twitter Etiquette?

(Fail Whale Picture via All Things Paper, shared via Creative Commons.)

February 13, 2011


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cartoon couple cuddled, looking at a heart

Plenty of Fish, E-Harmony, Match.com, etc. Those websites might be familiar to you as popular dating websites. That list, however, is far from complete – the number of dating sites is exhaustive, each offering to serve specific needs (JDate – “The Premier Jewish Community Online for Dating Jewish Singles,” for instance). The prevalence of those sites and others has even sparked interest in academia.

In addition to the websites to help you find a date, there is no shortage of ways to communicate with that date digitally – texting, instant messaging, emailing, skyping. It certainly is easier to keep in touch with others, butwhether or not technology’s influence on matters of the heart will ultimately be positive remains to be seen. What about new dating dilemmas? That, however, isn’t exactly the question I’m looking to answer. I’m more concerned about how to stay cordial in the face of ever changing tools of communication.

Traditional social codes have been supplanted by choices, risks and uncertainties that are a component of the consumer society. – Anthony Giddens as cited in “The Formation of Social Rules for Digital Interactions

Kristina Grish’s book The Joy of Text – Dating, Mating, and Techno-Relating, is interested in just that – how the rules of etiquette having changed. Her advice does seem to be geared solely to women. Sorry fellas. A more balanced approach may be found on the Dating Digital Podcast.


  • Have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Romance, Friendship, or something else.
  • Be upfront about who you are. Don’t “fudge” personal details or be misleading.
  • There is no need to post all of your personal information.
    • After you send something out, you don’t have control over who sees it or how it is dealt with.
  • Don’t feel obligated to go on a date with every person that shows interest.
  • Avoid stalking.


  • Keep an open mind.
  • Don’t call or text excessively. Focus on your date – not your technology (phone, iPod, etc).
  • Be respectful of your date’s concerns, opinions, and beliefs.


  • Don’t rely only on texting, emailing, and the like if you can help it.
  • Understand that tone can be lost in the text format.
  • Lack of instant responses doesn’t mean lack of interest. Be patient.
  • Keep the details of your relationship off Facebook if you want that information private.
  • Don’t update your social media with disparaging things. If you have an issue, go directly to your partner.
  • Break up in person. (Unless your situation makes this impossible).
  • Beware of sexting –

The act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones – Wikipedia.

¤ Keep these private. (A friend of mine gave me her old phone and forgot to delete a few texts of a rather personal nature).

¤ Make sure the recipient actually wants content of a sexually explicit nature.

Caroline Giegerich also wrote an article for Huffington Post with more helpful tips. Nobody wants technology to sabotage their relationship.

♥ The main thing to remember is to be yourself and be open & honest.

(Graphic via The Digital Scratch Pad, shared via Creative Commons)