There are a myriad ways that people can contact and send me messages these days. My work e-mail address, my blog e-mail address, one of my many personal e-mail addresses, my mobile phone, SMS on my mobile, my work phone, my home phone, snailmail on at my physical work address or my physical home address, via LinkedIn, FAX, etc., etc. What I think is interesting is that not only does the content of a message carry meaning, but the forum that it’s communicated to me does as well. Whether you send a message via SMS or via snailmail conveys something about its urgency, its importance, its intimacy, and its desire for response. (A quick aside: Want to really get someone’s attention who you don’t know? Send them a FedEx and follow up with a phone call immediately.)
Moreover, the message senders’ communication tool also sends a signal. Is an e-mail coming from your gmail account or a work account? Are you calling someone from your mobile while grocery shopping or sitting at your desk with your landline? It seems to me that a Caller ID number (or if it’s blocked) says something not just about who’s calling, but why they are calling.
Finally, the tricky part is that different communication methods carry different meanings for different people. I once worked at a consulting firm where it was imperative that people checked their voicemail almost hourly – it was just part of the culture that that was the primary method of communication. Now, I’ve gone a day or two without checking my work voicemail, but you know that you can reach me via e-mail almost instantly. Or, take Skype. Rumor has it that eBay is mandating that all employees register for a Skype account – surely forcing communication via a specific forum carries a certain meaning with it as well.