I have some sort of personal issue where I gravely fear ever getting bad news via instant message or text message. I would prefer to get it by phone or in person. If you can’t get in touch with me those ways, just wait before you tell me something unnerving.
In fact, this should become a new rule of etiquette for the digital age. Text and instant messaging has the effect of someone running up to you, yelling at you, then running away. It’s not personal. It leaves the recipient unable to read the emotions of the other person. It makes it difficult to know how to respond. And ultimately, it just feels lonely to get information this way.
I’m all for getting good news in any medium or channel whatsoever. But do not TXT orIM me bad news. I will just not believe you until you have called or visited me. I have made this little fact about myself clear my close family and friends, so they don’t commit this error.
I did have a scarring experience once with a piece of bad news that personally affected me on a deep level, which I received via TXT. That was not pleasant, and it woke me up to the problem with this poor choice of etiquette. General rule of thumb: If you might be crying while thumbing in your message, cancel your effing message, and go to that number pad thing. If you feel like making the other person cry while thumbing, stop what you’re doing, grow a pair, and allow your physical voice to be heard.
I also had a few experiences with bosses and managers sending me informal negative performance feedback via IM. In all those cases, they delivered it in an extremely blunt and angry manner. The medium of IM not only magnifies those effects, but it also gives the offending party an undeserved way of sending confrontational information in a completely cowardly way.
Use your head when choosing how you deliver any information that involves strong emotions or high stakes. Similar rules have already been established about email etiquette, which the population is still absorbing in the digital age.