It’s Friday. You made plans with a friend for the evening. You realize you didn’t confirm place or time, and you want to get in touch.
Phone? Text? IM? Email? Suddenly you’re flummoxed. There’s a perfect communication medium for this situation, but which is it? You search your wallet for a clue, but the only instruction card you find lists the fish that won’t go extinct if you eat them.
Here’s the card you’re looking for (please clip, fold and take with you):
Phone: Good luck. No one answers these days. Etiquette requires quaint introductions like “Hello, this is (your name here.)” and niceties like “How are you?”
GOOD: If you have all the time in the world, or you’re calling your grandmother.
AVOID: All other times.
Email: Perfect if a paper trail is needed. Otherwise beware the email torrent you compete with here. Don’t be hurt if you don’t receive an answer. You have been triaged out of sheer desperation, or relegated to a “Read Later” cyber-pile and forgotten.
GOOD: Interactions with boss who is harassing you, business transactions, spam.
AVOID: Arterial bleeding, and other urgent situations.
Texts: The inherent brevity makes this the most efficient form of communication. Also great for stealth situations.
GOOD: If you know the person is in a meeting, if you know the person is with her other boyfriend, and OMG Gr8t if ur under 20 yrs old.
AVOID: Using to break up with someone.
Instant Messaging: Great place to convey quick message, link, and/or snark. Fast-paced, no verbal tics such as “you know” or “like.” Also, you can disappear for a few minutes to eat lunch and blame it on a delivery.
GOOD: If you want to fool others into thinking you are working in front of a computer (including yourself.)
AVOID: If are over 35. Seriously, don’t even try.
Skype: What teleconferencing was supposed to be until we realized we want to work at home in our PJs with unbrushed hair.
GOOD: If you like looking at yourself all the time when you speak.
AVOID: If you don’t like other people looking at themselves while you speak.
Smoke Signals: May be of use in case of solar flare that brings down infrastructure.
GOOD: If you are a Vatican cardinal electing a pope.
AVOID: In dry brush.
Caroline Paul is the author of “East Wind, Rain” and “Fighting Fire.” Her latest book is “The Lost Cat,” an illustrated collaboration with Wendy MacNaughton. Find out more at www.carolinepaul.com and www.wendymacnaughton.com.