Daily Rumination No. 20: Skype Etiquette

For years and years, people have complained about emails. There are too many of them, people don’t know how to keep them brief and it’s easy to lose track of conversational threads.

In more recent times, numerous communication tools have been proposed as alternatives, whether it’s the popular group-based Slack or project-focused platforms like Asana.

Of course, one of the most alternative popular tools is Skype, which combines instant messaging, voice calls and video-conferencing. It’s not only popular amongst consumers and businesspeople, it’s also a common way for podcasters to conduct calls for their shows and interviews, as it allows their audio-recording to function cross-platform.

Whilst it is useful, I believe that it gets out of hand in its own way. Not only is it impossible to track chats properly—app chat history is relegated to Outlook, for whatever reason—it also leads to frustratingly inefficient conversations. It lulls people into casual time-wasting.

Instead of including over-the-top, über-courteous phrases such as ‘I hope that you are well’ and ‘kind regards’, people at work start Skype conversations like they’re just stopping by to say ‘hi’.

‘Hi, Martin!’

‘Yes?’, I think to myself. (I actually say ‘hi’ back.)

‘How are you?’, they ask.

‘I’m well, thank you. How about you? How may I be of assistance?’, I respond.

This conversational opening naturally would take much longer to be typed and sent than the time that it takes for you to read it. Rather than getting straight to the point (in a polite way) to save the recipient’s time, as instant-messaging apps are designed to do, people treat it like they’re just dropping by for casual chit-chat and end up wasting your time in the process.

The more that I think about it, the more that schools need a module in English classes that teaches people how to actually write for various modern, digital contexts. How much time would everyone save in a year if we were all quick and polite at the same time?