Ask Alex: Tech Etiquette Tips You Can Use
Until the invention of a sarcasm font, what’s the best way to make sure my emails and texts aren’t perceived as snarky when I don’t mean for them to be?
—Desperately Seeking Sarcasm
That’s a great question, DSS! I’m so excited to answer it.
As you can see, sarcasm can be a little tricky to detect online.
Let’s start with the general rule that sarcasm should never make its way into a professional exchange. It’s great that you’re cool with your boss, but what if she needs to forward that sarcastic message up the chain? Sure, she understands the intricacies of your brilliant, but evil mind, but will the CEO?
Another good rule is to know your audience. If your target wouldn’t be receptive to sarcasm in real life, it’s best to leave it out of your online conversations. For instance, I just got a text from my mom asking what time I’ll be available Saturday morning. If I write back 5:30, she’ll be ringing my buzzer at 5:25 in the morning. Sometimes it’s just best to play it straight.
But other times, of course, nothing but sarcasm will do. In those instances, the smiley face, though admittedly lame, almost always works. And even if the recipient doesn’t get that you’re being sarcastic, at least they know you said it with a smile. Avoid its sibling the wink face, which is really just the creepy drunken uncle of emoticons.
Haha, hehe, and, LOL, along with other variants of onomatopoeia and acronyms, are effective sarcasm signals as well. But too many hehes and you’ll sound like a hyena. And are you really laughing out loud at everything? If so, I hope you aren’t texting in the library. Italics also work, but there’s something that feels a little forced about them. If you’re trying to get a quick sarcastic jab in there, it loses some of its urgency when you stop to press Ctrl+I twice.
Sarcasm is all about achieving a delicate balance. Overall, there is no tried-and-true formula for delivering the perfect dose of sarcasm every time. Use one of the methods above, or a combination, until you find the formula that feels right to you.
And font developers, take note, we need a sarcasm font. Sarcastica has a nice ring to it.
I was unfriended on Facebook, what should I do? Can I send another friend request? Or a private message asking why? Is there any way to salvage the friendship without looking like a complete weirdo?
No one likes to feel left out, IC. But if you’ve been unfriended on Facebook, unfollowed on Twitter, delinked on LinkedIn, or given the minus on Google+, there really isn’t anything you can do about it. By no means should you send another friend request—that’s just going to make it awkward for everyone. And don’t bring it up in actual conversation, unless it’s someone like your 60-year-old Aunt Betty who may have unfriended you accidentally (this actually happened to me).
Instead of asking what you can do, try asking yourself: What have I done?
If you’ve been unfriended on Facebook, it was probably for one of two reasons. The first is that, with such a complicated weave of social webs, it doesn’t hurt to untangle some knots from time to time. How well did you know this person, anyway? If it’s someone you sort of knew in high school but haven’t spoken with in 10 years, you shouldn’t feel too bad about it—you might have even done the same thing yourself a little further down the line.
But if you find yourself cut loose by someone closer—a person you’ve interacted with in the past year—or if you’re being unfriended at an alarming rate, there’s probably another reason why: You’re annoying online, or you’re just bad at Facebook.
If you update your status too often, post in ALL CAPS, or share the same cat video everyone else has seen 10 times, that’s enough to scare some people off. If you’re super-opinionated, passive aggressive, or always posting about how busy or tired you are, you have it coming to you. And if you’re a major downer, or continually reminding everyone how much you love your kid, dog, husband, or other whatever, I’d unfriend you myself.
And don’t get me started on FarmVille requests.
Of course, none of this means you’re a bad person. You’re probably swell. But concentrated bursts of any of the above behaviors can get tedious. And on the flip side, if you’re unsure about whether to unfriend someone, and they’ve exhibited any of these characteristics, I say it’s fair game. Sure, it can be a little awkward, but we’re allowed to pick and choose our virtual friends, just like we do in real life.
One last word of warning: Spring is right around the corner. Think before you post, lest you become the victim of someone’s social spring cleaning.
I recently spotted a coworker on OkCupid. I’ve always had a thing for her, but never really acted on it. Should I message her through the site, or would it be better to approach her in person and mention her profile?
Do not mention the profile in person. Please, whatever you do, do not mention the profile in person. Even if this woman likes you, there is nothing guaranteed to make for a more awkward conversation than that.
But you should message her. One of the most appealing aspects of dating sites is that they make talking to potential dates a lot less stressful than they would be in person. So if you want to get closer to this woman, give it a shot. But don’t give it a shot if you sit right next to her and it’s the middle of the work day. Email her at the end of the day on a Friday, or some other time when you’re away from the office. That way she’ll have some time to decide how to respond to your message before seeing you up close again at work.
And just like when you ask someone out in the real world, be prepared for the outcome. If she doesn’t respond, don’t send another message, and don’t bring it up in person. She probably feels awkward about it, and you can take the ensuing silence as your answer. After all, another appealing aspect of dating sites is that they make it easy to reject people too.
But if she does respond, and you do go out on a date, try not to memorize her profile beforehand. That way you can have an honest, spontaneous conversation when you go out. It’s nice to know if you’re compatible, but an online questionnaire can only get you so far.
Have a burning tech etiquette question you want answered? Send it to Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Alex Colon, PCMag