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Practice good IM etiquette

Unlike face-to-face or voice communication, where it is easy for someone to read your body language or hear your tone of voice, IM is still not that advanced. It is for this reason that NTOMBEZINHLE MODISELLE of Intel advises that we practice and demand good IM manners.

Now that the BlackBerry users are feeling like they are part of the world again and are all acting like its the first day of school and they can talk to their friends again its maybe a wake-up call when it comes to online etiquette, says Intel’s head of marketing, Ntombezinhle Modiselle.

‚During the BlackBerry blackout many people discovered ‚ to their surprise ‚ how contactable they really are. But you can control your ‚always on’ status by practicing and demanding good IM manners,‚ says Ms Modiselle.

‚Unlike face-to-face or voice communication, where you can easily read body language or tone of voice, our IM usage has not yet reached that level of maturity. But it’s simply not good manners to assume everyone is switched on and ready to IM at any given hour of the day or night.‚

Ms Modiselle says we should learn to indicate via our IM status if we are available to interact or not. ‚If your unavailable status is blatantly disregarded, you may need to enforce your boundaries a little more with a ‚Not now’, ‚A little busy right now’ or ‚Can we talk later?’ and then give a time when you might be free. However, don’t ever not reply at all, as this is considered rude.‚

If initiating the conversation, she encourages to ‚knock’ first by saying ‚Got a sec?’, ‚IM?’, ‚Quick question?’, ‚Are you free?’ or something similar.

‚During a conversation, keep it flowing and fast-paced,‚ she says. ‚Using emoticons is perfectly acceptable when expressing approval or disapproval but do keep cultural norms in mind. IM is probably the only space where minor spelling mis-types are not frowned upon. You may also use widely accepted acronyms such as ‚LOL’, ‚TGIF’, ‚BTW’ help to speed up your typing, but never use language that you won’t ordinarily use in emails which can be saved or circulated to haunt you at a later stage.‚

The worst times to IM would be while driving, during meetings, presentations or when you are able to have a personal conversation with someone. ‚Be sensible and don’t look like you are distracted in a meeting or put yourself and other drivers in harm’s way. If you can easily walk over and speak to the person, do that rather than IM,‚ she says. ‚Respect business hours by limiting personal IMs and remember that work-related IMs may be deemed inappropriate after business hours by some. The same goes for considering time zones.‚

Many of the same values still uphold as was the case with establishing boundaries during the early days of email. ‚Resist the urge to spam IM contacts and do not forward every joke, heartfelt petition or any broadcast messages which almost never originate from the official corporate source. These fake messages ‚ such as the ones doing the rounds during the BlackBerry blackout ‚ are easy to spot as corporates will never ask users to forward messages to all their contact in order to maintain their profiles.

‚It’s so easy to lose the old-school core values of respect and consideration amidst the countless ways to communicate in our technological age. Innovation is no excuse to forget your manners whether you are at home, in the car or at work,‚ ends Ms Modiselle.


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