Digital Life

Social Media Advice: Are Voicemails Verboten Or Not?

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Social media experts Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book How to Be Black, and Deanna Zandt, author of Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking, answer questions about how to behave in the digital age. This week's topic: leaving a voicemail message in a world that relies increasingly on text-based communication.


Finally, in tech, we turn once again to our social media experts. Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book "How to Be Black," and Deanna Zandt, she's the author of "Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking."

Well, this week's topic is voice mail. In a world that relies increasingly on text-based communication, where does that leave the message after the beep?

DEANNA ZANDT: I am anti-voice mail. And actually, I've made a lot of people really frustrated because I actually leave my phone box full so that people can't leave a voice mail.

BARATUNDE THURSTON: What? That's worse than me. I thought I was a not nice person.


ZANDT: And everybody who's ever tried to leave me a voice mail, they're like, hey, your mailbox is full of - you know, and they've had to email me or text me because my message says: If you want to reach me faster, text me or email me. My parents are the most irritated by this. But...

THURSTON: Which makes sense.

ZANDT: has worked to my disadvantage. I have missed important voice mails from my doctor about my...


THURSTON: Because you're like, if my doctor won't text me, I'll never find out.

ZANDT: I am so anti-voice mail. I just can't take it.

THURSTON: The thing about voice mail, if you're going to leave it, I would say keep it brief.


THURSTON: All these communications, you know, think about the burden on the other person and assume they're getting a lot of these and just keep it tight. What's the message? What's the point? What do you want? What are you offering? And then be out.

The other trick - I actually do like some voice mails.

ZANDT: Oh, yeah.

THURSTON: And what happens is...

ZANDT: That's actually where the fullness comes down.

THURSTON: Well, it's almost like letter writing at this point. It's like, oh, it feels special, because most people know not to do it, so if there is someone who's a close family or someone you might be seeing, then it can be a nice gesture of care because it's so easy to fire off a text.

The idea that you would call and have this richer media experience with a person, not at the same time, but like voices are rich things, as you guys know because you're listening to National Public Radio.

ZANDT: Because this is the radio.

SIEGEL: That's Deanna Zandt and Baratunde Thurston.

If you have a question for our experts, email us at


BLONDIE: (Singing) Call me on the line...

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