Why Nick Bilton Only Loves His Mother 140 Characters At A Time

11 Mar

A NYT reporter highlights how much thought people don’t put into their digital communications   

Nick Bilton’s new NYT article about digital etiquette was mind-blowing for anyone interested in communications strategies.  He identified a growing trend of intolerance for numerous inefficient or redundant types of messages.  Whether you welcome this streamlining or find hyper-efficient messaging to be dehumanizing, it is certainly provokative and worth keeping in mind before hitting send.

The full article is worth a read, but, in addition to revealing that he communicates with his mom mainly via Twitter (!), Bilton’s take-homes were:

  • Don’t leave voicemails, and never ever send an email telling someone you just left a voicemail
  • Never ask anyone anything you can look up on Google yourself 
  • Don’t bother with “Dear….” at the beginning of emails or sign-offs at the end
  • Don’t text someone a question that takes more than a grunt to reply to.   

His points were actually a bit more subtle than that, and he suggested that a lot depended on the audience.  Someone older would expect more of the formalities and P’s and Q’s than someone in college.  

The article struck home as remarkably intolerant (as well as amusing):

I once asked a friend something easily discovered on the Internet, and he responded with a link to lmgtfy.com, which stands for Let Me Google That For You.


But that intolerance was probably the point. 

On the one hand, it’s probably not necessary to be a dick like Bilton’s friend.  On the other hand, people are inundated with emails, FB messages and notifications, tweets, DMs and so much more.  Many people receive work and personal emails in the same gmail account, only making the “noise” all the more difficult to manage. 

And that was Bilton’s real point.  

Particularly in the business context, it’s never been more important to put thought into the method and substance of communications for them to gain any attention at all, let alone to make them really stand out.  

I’m going to put together some future posts on this subject.  A blog article about writing emails might be the most boring subject possible.  But that’s why few people pay attention to it, and most  suck at it surprisingly badly.  So there will probably be some interesting things to say.  Stay tuned!  



One Response to “Why Nick Bilton Only Loves His Mother 140 Characters At A Time”


  1. F***ing Forgiveness in the Age of Sharing | Kosher Bacon - April 30, 2013

    […] previously written about the need for more honesty in corporate communications, and the generational shift in the way people communicate. But I think this is actually part of a different trend too.  The constant sharing of personal […]

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