The most annoying question online

 Instead of helping, this eager little question just annoys the living daylights out of the recipient.

Story highlights

  • "Have you heard from ____ yet?" is pointless to ask on social media, writers say
  • Your friend will update with new information when they do hear back
  • Ask what medium your friend is monitoring and pick a different one to say hello
We humans are curious monkeys, hungry for novel information as we go through our days.
From the time we're toddlers, we're pestering those around us with plaintive demands for explanations, and as we get older, that drive to know doesn't disappear -- it just changes shape.
Queries such as "Why do fireflies light up?" and "Are we there yet?" are really not so different from an epically annoying question, typically delivered through digital means: "Have you heard from ____ yet?"
And that, dear readers, is one of the single most annoying English phrases you can text/tweet/post on someone's wall/Tumblr or, for that matter, relay via smoke signals from mountaintop to distant mountaintop. And yet we utter it so often, all well-intentioned, when a friend is waiting to hear back from a new love interest, or about a new job, or about a contest for which she's a finalist, whatever.
But instead of helping, the eager little question just annoys the hell out of the recipient.
Why, you ask, you inquisitive creature you? First off, asking such a question is pointless -- if you're close enough to feel entitled to check in, then you should be at the top of the list of people said friend will update when there's news.
The odds that he'll answer, "Shucks, I wasn't going to tell you, but now that you've asked, they offered me the position and I accepted so I'm moving to San Francisco next week! What's new with you?" are slim, to say the least. Much more likely: You'll get a pained expression and a "No, nothing yet," and you've just ruined your buddy's night. Well done.
Popping the question via phone call or text poses an additional problem -- your stuck-in-limbo friend has probably been staring at her cell for hours, praying it will ring or beep, and your little ring-a-ling or text likely shot her blood pressure up by a solid 200%. Sending a check-in text to a friend who's waiting for a text isn't just pointless -- it's downright cruel.
But you, being a good friend/mom/mentor/frenemy/whatever, can't just sit on your hands while your loved one sits on her hands, right? With that in mind, here are a few tips for not being a social networking pest while your friend awaits important news.
1. Pick a medium that will not cue a stroke.
Figure out what channel your friend is expecting the news on and pick a different one to say hello. If she's waiting to hear back from a dude about a second date, figure he's going to call or text (unless he is completely awful and only communicates with her on Facebook, in which case -- abort! abort!), and use a totally unrelated medium for checking in, such as e-mail. (True, some people have their smartphones set to get an alert anytime anyone tweets at, e-mails, tags or makes a Words with Friends move against them, in which case any contact you attempt will give their phone a jolt. But that's their own fault.)
2. Say something encouraging.
Bite your tongue and avoid asking for an update. Assume there isn't one. Instead mention the situation at hand in a positive way -- for example, if your buddy's waiting to hear from HR with bated breath, you can say something reassuring about how strong a candidate he must be and how you're looking forward to taking him out for celebratory beers once this or another gig works out.
3. Change the subject.
Anyone in communication limbo is wishing, nay, aching to take her mind off of the waiting. Any topic will do -- "Twin Peaks" episode summaries, your prattling list of new blog ideas ("Bad OKCupid Messages! Overheard at Walmart! Something with Something To Do With Hipsters!"), a discussion of theoretical physics, you name it. Just get the ball rolling in another direction, ask some questions and voila, your friend's heart rate will creep back into the normal range.