“Sorry…Hav to tke important Skype call….ttyl”  my chat window read.  And just like that my friend vanished.

For ten minutes, I had been waiting to Facebook chat with this person--who had been tied up multi-chatting, as was his wont--so I could tell him my news. I had finally gotten his full attention (or what passes for full attention nowadays) and was madly typing something I felt was fairly interesting when…wham!  I was dumped for the Skype call.

“Hmm,” I thought, after a fleeting letdown feeling.  What does have priority, in a society where everyone is continuously plugged into several communication outlets at once?  Is it a matter of who it is who is contacting you, or is it first-come, first-served?  Or is it, perhaps, a decision that is based on the form of technology itself? 

I suddenly had this vision of the rock-paper-scissors game I used to play as a child (rock breaks scissors; scissors cut paper; paper covers rock.) It’s a game that has been used for decades--by adults as well as kids--to decide various issues, from figuring out whose team goes first to resolving legal disputes.

Does Skype beat IM? Does a text on your phone beat a Facebook chat?  When you are at a cocktail party, is taking a call acceptable?  If you are on the phone, should you put the person on hold because you have a text coming in? 

Call me old-fashioned but I believe that face-to-face interaction should almost always take precedence.  And, all things being equal (that is, the person with whom you are communicating is not in the middle of telling you he has a gun to their head and is about to pull the trigger), I believe that because a call--of any kind--involves a live person, it should be considered more important than chatting or texting.  IMing on Facebook may be happening in real time, but people do tend to multi-chat about unimportant things on the computer.  It’s more of a “while I am waiting for something in my life to happen” kind of pastime, so therefore probably least important of all.  (Never mind that we should all be reading a book instead. I have given up Luddite lecturing for Lent.)

It would be a lot easier if there were some hard-and-fast rules in this area, rock-paper-scissors style. Social rules are good for us; they lesson the possibility of confusion and misunderstanding. Okay, so here it is, folks: Face-to-face interaction trumps a call (Skype or other); a call trumps a text; a text trumps IMing.  One, two, three…go!

With this strict hierarchy in place, when my above friend got his Skype call I would not have been taken aback even for a second. I would merely have clicked quickly out of Facebook Chat and called someone up on the phone, knowing that that way, I might finally win the battle for a conversation.

Of course, I’d have to find someone who still answers his phone.


  1. Thanks for bringing this up, Miss Mingle. These new technologies need new nettiquette guides to help sort this all out! Even on line we want to avoid faux pas...

  2. AnonymousJuly 24, 2010

    Any clerk in any store will answer the phone in the middle of a transaction, no matter how many patrons are waiting right there, in person, right now, in the "real reality" space.

    That's so wrong, on so many levels, it's a wonder I don't grab the gun from the robber in front of me and plug the damned clerk between the eyes. (After I've removed their sunglasses, of course.)