Randi Zuckerberg: Digital dilemmas require modern manners 

Mingling in today’s online world requires modern-day manners to help resolve the digital dilemmas lurking within the numerous email, tweets and text messages we exchange daily.

In the second of a three-day look at contemporary etiquette, Dot Complicated editor-in-chief Randi Zuckerberg addressed some of the more common problems of today’s digital world. The founder and chief executive of Zuckerberg Media had advice on how to handle those awkward moments during an interview Wednesday with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and singer Michael Bublé.

Sending a message to the wrong person
Zuckerberg said it’s important to immediately own up to it when an email accidentally gets sent to a person being written about. It doesn’t matter whether the person is being discussed directly or is mentioned at the bottom of an email chain being forwarded.

“You … just have to call the person and say, ‘I really screwed up. I’m so sorry,’” she said. “I think the worst thing you can do is just send one of those email retractions without doing anything. That’s basically just saying, ‘Please look at me, I messed up. Look at this email.’ But I think, just own up to it.”

Responding to a negative email or text
When you receive a hurtful message, it’s natural to want to strike back, but Zuckerberg recommended holding back and taking a moment before deciding whether to respond.

“It’s really important to take the digital high road, to take a breath,” she said. If the urge to respond is strong, write out your thoughts – but then ask a friend to look over your note.

“If I feel tempted to send an emotional email, I always draft it and kind of send it to a friend, who I know is going to write back and say, ‘Do you feel better now that you wrote it? Don’t send it!'” she said.

Lengthy email threads
Everyone has received one of those mass email messages that yield multiple responses from everyone on the chain. Zuckerberg said some email services allow recipients to opt out. Gmail, for example, allows users to “mute” a conversation, while Facebook users can leave the message thread altogether.

“But I think it comes down to the responsibility of the host,” she said. “If you’re doing something that requires a response, use a little survey or a little tool that lets people just respond to you.”

Like the email accidentally sent to the wrong person, a call or text accidentally sent from a phone inside a pocket or purse also requires the sender to own up to the mistake.

“If you actually pocket-dial, and inevitably it’s going to be someone you haven’t spoken to in years, you kind of have to expect that they’re going to text or call you back,” she said. “And you kind of have to spend a few minutes talking to them.”

Electronic versus handwritten thank-younotes
Is it ever appropriate to thank somebody with an email instead of writing a personal note or even picking up the phone? Zuckerberg said she’s torn on this issue.

“Handwritten is the best, but my worse pet peeve is when you don’t get thanked at all for something,” she said. “If at least you can put a text message or email, at least you’re saying something.”

Texting versus calling
Texting has become an inevitable tool in today’s modern dating scene. While it may be acceptable to initially ask a potential date out via text message, make personal contact as soon as possible. Zuckerberg said, “If it goes well enough to want a second date, you pick up the phone and you call because chivalry is not dead in this world.”

Zuckerberg says there are three scenarios when she always turns her text conversations into discussions over the phone:

  • When giving complicated directions, or advice that needs detailed explanation;
  • When a conversation has become emotional and has the potential for meaning to get lost in translation;
  • When the exchange turns to gossip, because “you would never want that to be in writing.”

And another no-no for texting: Calling it quits in a relationship. Break up in person, never online. “Not cool. You definitely owe someone at least the face-to-face,” Zuckerberg said.