Modern Communication Norms

Modern communication culture is much different than it was twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, communication with co-workers, family, and friends was completed by two primary methods; the landline telephone, and the written or typed letter. The progressively antiquated telegraph was losing ground and norms for how the primary methods of communication were used were well established.

The use of written or typed letters was common for long distance communication, business dealings, invitations to events, birthday wishes, and of course ‘Junk Mail’. In all of these instances letters had a common format that started with a greeting such as “Dear John” and a closing such as “Your’s Truly, Jane”.

The landline telephone was also used for long distance communication, business dealings, invitations to events, birthday wishes, and of course telemarketing. In all of these instances the telephone conversation also took a common format that started with a greeting such as “Answer: Maher residence, Caller: Hello, this is Mrs. Jane Doe, can I speak with Joshua” and a closing such as “Goodbye”.

Not using these formats violated a common folkway that dictated the proper formats for written letters and telephone conversations. Violating these folkways usually resulted in offending the other parties involved in the interaction which in turn could lead to breaking down friendships, losing business, or simply not getting business in the case of junk mail or telemarketing.

Today, those formats are reaching their end and the norms that dictate the proper use of communication are also changing. Cell phones, instant messaging, and email have become standard across the globe. Some of the old formats remain a cultural norm such as ending a communication with a closing (e.g. “Goodbye”); however, some have disappeared, such as beginning an email or an instant message with a greeting (e.g. “hello”). With the change of methods and formats used to communicate, the folkways that dictate their use are experiencing heavy fluctuations. For example, last august a 21 year old sales associate for a London body piercing shop was fired via a text message on her cell phone. To younger employers this is more acceptable then it would be to an older employer; however, it is a good example of the variance in what is currently an acceptable norm. The folkways and mores that dictate what is acceptable are also in flux and difficult to judge for an inexperienced individual.

As these new methods continue to develop, some of the folkways are turning into more rigid mores that carry real sanctions. It is generally dangerous to talk on a cell phone while driving and some cities and states are passing laws to make it illegal. Using email for the equivalent of junk mail or telemarketing (spam) has resulted in several cases where individuals and companies were charged and have had to pay fines. These mores are still evolving as the acceptable use of these communication methods is discovered.

The next question is how will RSS feeds play a part in future communication norms? advertising, “inapropriate feeds”, security, invitations, etc……there aren’t hellos and goodbyes already, although there could be despite the general one-to-many communication….but there are comments so there is potential for many-to-many….and they are written personally (I invite people to events all the time on my blog)….

Will norms for blogging and reading blogs via feeds (in email clients, on mobiles, and over the web) influence norms for greetings, included advertising, and ‘voice’ of the author? Written letters were assumed and still are assumed to be personal and not shown to ANYONE else. emails, text messages, instant messages, and blogs are expected to be shared or viewed by others and as such are generally not written with the same tone or ‘voice’ as a written letter….despite the any efforts of the author or audience to evoke that level of intimacy.

Time will tell how these things evolve as more news is reported by independant bloggers, more companies innovate with RSS feeds, and more families and people communicate over these methods.



3 Responses to “Modern Communication Norms”

  1. Modern Communication Norms | supro's Blog Says:

    […] Modern Communication Norms Posted on September 18, 2010 by supro200 […]

  2. Irving Says:

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful article. Thanks for
    providing these details.

  3. Says:

    Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just
    curious if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you
    protect against it, any plugin or anything you can suggest?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any assistance is very much appreciated.

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