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17 Communication Annoyances that Must End in 2014

on January 13, 2014


I really enjoy being annoyed. And lucky for me, my readers enjoy me being annoyed too. My annual “Annoying Communications that Must End” articles have consistently ranked as my most successful posts every year. So as not to disappoint, I’ve amassed another great collection of annoying communications that you’ll either love and agree with, or not find annoying at all. Below are my 17 communication annoyances that must end in 2014.

If after reading you’re still hungry for more, make sure to register and download the compendium of the past four years in a free ebook of 58 communication annoyances (PDF, Apple iBook, and Kindle formats available). Registering also subscribes you to the Spark Notes* newsletter (latest issue). You can unsubscribe at any time.

Update: The 2015 edition, with 80 annoyances, is available for download for $.99 via iTunes and Amazon

Read on and let me know if you’re just as annoyed, more annoyed, or not annoyed at all.

1: Using “LOL” in spoken conversation

The normal in-person response to a funny comment or joke is to either laugh or say, “That’s funny.” There are no other acceptable responses. That hasn’t stopped some for replacing the “that’s funny” response (usually uttered by jaded comedians) with a verbal retort of “LOL.” Even though this acronym was designed solely for live online conversations, it’s made the crossover to face-to-face conversations.

I accepted Donny Osmond’s crossover to “a little bit country” a lot easier than I do hearing someone say “LOL” after one of my jokes. It actually makes me want to punch them in the face which I’ve discovered is not an effective way to build an audience.

2: Retweeting

Twitter can be a great avenue to distribute thoughts, articles, videos, and photos, but only if it’s given a personal touch. The retweet allows you to add to the Twitter echo chamber with the simplest of all gestures, a mouse click. This “me too” button was designed for the world’s laziest marketer, allowing anyone to fulfill an obligation to promote someone else’s project with the utmost minimal effort. Clicking a button is truly “the least you could do.”

Retweeting is similar to passing a message you don’t want to read but are happy to hand off. It’s like when someone asks you to hand off a LinkedIn communiqué through your network. Do you really spend the time reading their message to the intended contact? If it’s not about you, what do you care? Just pass it along. While many of us want to help out, we just don’t want to get involved.

For more, read “Here’s What’s Wrong with Social Media: Sharing without Consumption.”

3: Announcing your ignorance through an attempt at superiority

This annoying communication manifests itself in a multitude of different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.”
  • “This conference sucks. Nothing new to see here.”
  • “NASCAR is stupid. They’re just driving around in circles.”
  • “The concert wasn’t any good, I only knew three of their songs.”

In all these cases, the person speaking is trying to show off their superiority by putting something else down. The net result is they come off looking like a moron. Just because you haven’t taken the time to understand something doesn’t mean it sucks.

4: Posting your air travel schedule

When did air travel become the most arduous task a human can undertake? People write about their flight schedule on social media as if they’re Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill. That pretentiousness of “I’m traveling on planes and you’re not” is magnified exponentially when they post a combination of airport codes: “SFO to BOS to DFW to UPYOURASS.” Announcing your air travel only proves that you can sit on your butt for hours at a time.

Here’s what the status update should say: “Tomorrow I’ll be sitting on my ass and reading for 6 hours straight. Then I’m going to walk for about 100 yards and eat a Cinnabon. Then I’ll sit on my ass for another six hours, watch a few movies, get up and walk about 400 yards, sit in a cab for an hour, and then check into a hotel where I’ll sleep for eight hours.”

Please also avoid photos of the waiting area at the airport. I’ve seen people sitting in chairs before and no one cares if your flight has been delayed.

5: Unfriending announcements

Every time a social media user announces an unfriending, what follows is a litany of rules to avoid their almighty unfriending click: “I just couldn’t deal with the negativity anymore,” “Every update pushes her political agenda,” “I don’t even know him and he’s commenting on photos of my kids?”

When did being your friend become such a friggin’ awesome honor? If you’re going to announce a defriending, either keep it to yourself or tell me who it is so I know who to avoid. Putting all your followers “on notice” with a guideline of how not to be unfriended is a good reason for the rest of us to unfriend you.

6: Shooting and posting vertical videos

Isn’t it cool when you go to someone’s house and they’ve hung their TV in a 9 x 16 orientation? Aren’t you thrilled that YouTube finally gives you the option to post your video vertically? And don’t you think it’s great that most of the theaters now give you the option of IMAX, 3D, or vertical orientation?

No, none of those things exist, so why on earth would anyone shoot a video vertically. Yes, I understand most of the time you use your phone in portrait mode, but we don’t watch videos that way. It’s been that way only since the invention of film and video. Even with that obvious well-known fact, Facebook is still flooded with self-important morons too damn lazy to turn their iPhone 90°.

7: Announcing your workout routine

I’ve deduced the only reason to announce your workout routine is to either make your followers feel bad about not exercising, or you’re an attention hungry shell of a despot desperate for emotional support.

“Good night moon. Bike training then swim workout starting at 5:15am tomorrow.”

This statement in no way invites conversation. You either have to feel like crap or you must laud praise. There is no other way to respond to such a self-interested post. What you should say is “Thanks for that information. Let me check my ‘I-don’t-give-a-shit-at-a-glance’ calendar.”

Keep your postings of workouts within your fitbit and Nike Fuel Band networks, where your followers have opted-in to this information.

Lastly, while no one wants to hear about your workout routine, please, for the love of God, never ever talk about your yoga retreat.

8: Beginning a sentence with “I hate to interrupt, but…”

I have a habit of avoiding things I hate. Most people feel the same way. We extend great effort not doing things we hate such as getting fired, drinking poison, and stepping on a rake.

Understanding the definition of the word “hate” and our normal human reaction to those things we hate, it would be totally incongruous to cavalierly announce something we hate and then immediately do it. Yet, people do it all the time with the meaningless phrase “I hate to interrupt, but…”

In no way do these people ‘hate’ to interrupt. They may be sorry for interrupting, but they don’t actually hate it. If they truly hated it, they simply wouldn’t voluntarily do it.

Next time someone says, “I hate to interrupt, but…” cut them off right there and ask, “You really ‘hate’ to interrupt? But you’re about to do it regardless, right? Do you also ‘hate’ getting hit across the skull with a baseball bat?”

9: Talking immediately when you call

When you make an unscheduled phone call, you have absolutely no idea what the person on the other line is doing at that very moment. Since you’re making the call, you definitely have an agenda. Chances are very high that the person on the other side of the call isn’t thinking about that agenda at that very moment. To immediately launch into your agenda is so annoying that the receiving party probably wants to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.

Instead of being perceived as a bull in a china shop, always ask if you caught someone at a good time. If they say yes, they’ll be more receptive to your agenda. If no, schedule a time when they’ll be more receptive.

10: Not being comfortable with video conferencing

Video conferencing couldn’t be easier now that every notebook computer today has a built-in video camera and everyone has a Skype account. When I need to schedule a call, I always prefer to make it a video call. It’s far more personal and demands full attention. Neither party can get away with multitasking. And when you are talking you can look at the non-verbal cues to see if they’re listening and they appreciate what you’re saying.

Even though video conferencing should be the preferred method of communications, when physically possible, people still don’t like to do it which I find infuriating. Unless you’re a hermit that refuses to meet people in person, the “I don’t like how I look on camera” is no longer valid and horrifically vain. Get over it.

11: Vaguebooking

This is the phenomenon of making a big announcement that’s clouded in some pointless mystery. To tell your readers “I did it” or “Keep your fingers crossed for me” always invites the obvious question of “What the hell are you talking about?” Coyly, and annoyingly, the response to that question is always “I can’t tell you.” UGGHHHHH! Then why the CRAP did you post anything you starved-for-attention jackass?

This cat-and-mouse game of fabricated mystery, for which when revealed is of no interest to anybody, always results in the responses of frustration and then apathy.

12: “I’d like to add you to my professional network” LinkedIn requests

Remember all those business connections you used to make with complete strangers who would never introduce themselves, or ask about you and your business?

Even though everyone on the planet knows this is not the way to successfully network, my LinkedIn inbox is flooded with “I’d like to add you to my professional network” connection requests (I recently noticed the generic invite has been updated to read, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn”). This is the equivalent of going to a party and announcing to everyone, “I’d like to network with all of you, but I don’t want to introduce myself. So, if you’d like to network, I’ll be standing in a corner over there. Remember I asked first, but I’m not introducing myself, so please don’t wait for me to come to you. Instead, come over to me, hand me your business card, and initiate the conversation.”

You could do that, which is at the apex of laziness, or since you’re the one who wants to network you could just behave like a normal social human being and introduce yourself.

13: Announcing you want to make a “viral video”

If you’re a marketer and your best marketing idea is to “make a viral video” you should be fired. Successful viral videos require a lot of creativity and your recommendation to create one required zero creativity. It’s like announcing, “Let’s make ‘Star Wars.’”

The goal of a viral video is solely to get lots of views and to be shared a lot. Sounds great from the pure marketing impressions standpoint, but that is most often at complete odds with any marketing message or business objective that you have. It’s also wishful thinking. You don’t just announce you’re making a “viral” video and then it happens. You make a video and then there’s work to help make it go viral or if you’re really lucky the content is so spectacular it takes off on its own. Making a viral video is not and should not ever be a marketing plan.

For more, read “Worst Content Marketing Advice.”

14: Referring to anything that’s “black” as being racist

Like most over told jokes, this was funny the first time someone said it. Now everyone thinks they’re clever to refer to something as racist whenever you use the word “black” as a modifier. “Black Friday,” “black belts,” and the “Black Plague,” are all racist to the hackneyed jokester. While you’re at it, stop adding “…in bed” and “that’s what she said” after anyone utters anything.

15: Fake personalization in mass emails

It’s a horrible PR trend which involves attaching a fake veneer of personalization to a mass email all in an effort to improve open and response rates (see “The Obnoxious Trend of Faux Friendliness in Mass Mails”).

There’s nothing wrong with being friendly in a personal email. In fact, it’s highly recommended. When you try to personalize en masse through an email marketing list it always comes off as phony. Examples include opening an email with open-ended pointless questions such as “How’s it going?” or heaping on generic praise such as “We love all the stuff you write about on your blog.”

I’m sure there’s tons of evidence that points to increased click-throughs if you include the person’s name, their blog, and a generic compliment. Problem is these marketing emails are usually sent out to intelligent people that won’t fall for simple easy-to-spot marketing tricks. If you’re not fooled by it, why would you think your recipient would be fooled? These tricks are a form of lying, and if forming a relationship is your goal, then launching with a lie is probably not a good opening move.

16: Announcing you had that idea first

We all have those friends who like to tell you they had the idea first for Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook, or some other incredibly successful venture. They pitched it to so and so, they didn’t listen, never got the money, and so he could never do it. And that’s the only reason they’re not successful. We’ve all heard these so called “experts” tell their “I had it first” tales. When we hear it we never respond, “Wow, you really were screwed.” Instead, we think to ourselves, “Yeah, whatever blowhard.”

I can produce twenty ideas in a minute. I can’t produce a business that quickly. Having the idea is truly the easiest and the least risky step of any venture. The reason the other person succeeded, and your friend who supposedly had the idea first didn’t succeed, is because the other person actually executed on the idea.

Execution involves stopping the financial and personal security of whatever you’re doing now and taking on the risk of an untested idea. It also involves raising the money, finding a business location, assembling a team, building the product, marketing it, and growing the customer base.

Yeah whatever, you had an idea. I take dumps in the morning too.

17: “You all mean so much to me” posts

These are the long self-reflective Facebook posts that talk about how there was a lot of sorrow and joy over the year. Usually it involves a death combined with some professional success (one friend of mine, an actor from Hollywood, talked about his closest friend dying, but he also booked two commercials). The post then says they wouldn’t have gotten through it if it wasn’t for all of you, “You all mean so much to me.”

If you’re connected to hundreds or thousands of people it’s physically not possible for everyone to mean that much to you. Most of us don’t think about you ever, and you don’t think about us. We all don’t mean that much to each other.

While on the onset these posts appear egalitarian in which you profess your love and compassion for your fellow Facebookers, in reality these posts are intensely selfish. What these posts are saying is, “I’m desperate for attention. I need it badly now. I’m going to pull a melodramatic move that would make a Spanish soap opera gag all in an effort to get personal responses.” These posts commonly receive dozens of comments and often over a hundred “Likes.”

A non-selfish person would actually send a private message to the few people that did mean a lot to them over the year. But that takes a lot of work and may only generate a handful of responses. I’d rather just post one generic “you all mean so much to me” post and get dozens of responses.

CONCLUSION: We’re connected through our love of being annoyed

Please don’t tell me I’d be happier if I just let go of the little things in life that bother me. For some of us, I’m pointing to myself here, complaining is what gives us joy. Annoyances are our spinach and our dilithium crystals. They energize us and fuel our entire day. Embrace the things that annoy us and tell others how they should behave. That’s what I do. Now it’s your turn to do it in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. You all mean so much to me.

If you liked this collection, you’ll love the four-year compilation of annoyances.

Register to download for free the “58 Communication Annoyances That Must End” ebook (PDF, Apple iBook, and Kindle formats available) and to subscribe to the Spark Notes* newsletter (latest issue). You can unsubscribe at any time.

Creative Commons photo attributions to Clinton Steeds, Rob Boudon, pellesten, Tim Green aka atoach, Oli Dunkley, paazio, Lizzie279, pasa47, scottfeldstein, rustybrick, KOREA.NET, and Capture Queen.  

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jimdog33 January 14, 2014 at 8:10 am

I was initially annoyed at the email which lead me to this article but after actually reading it (fully), I couldn’t agree more. I probably experience a few of these examples every day. Good article, now let’s make it law!

David Spark January 14, 2014 at 10:01 am

Jimdog, the email that led you to this article can still be annoying, yet you can still enjoy the article. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Alicia Dattner January 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Love it! I can’t wait to be less annoying!

Jono Smith January 29, 2014 at 8:34 am

In spite of being a multiple offender (mostly because my ORD->LAX status update led to a beer at O’Hare with a Facebook friend from college I hadn’t seen in 15 years), I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

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