Communication

In: Navel Gazing

14 Oct 2009

Disclaimer: This is not directed at any one person. It is the product of the last few years of internet interaction, and an ever shortening fuse when it comes to this kind of issue. If you wonder “Could she be talking about me?” know that such wondering is good, but this probably isn’t about you.

Since it seems to be necessary right now, this is where I’m going to be a total and complete jerk* and lay out exactly what I do and don’t expect in terms of communication with people I don’t know on the internet.

If you want to talk to me, I’m happy to do so. I will gladly offer help with RP or cooking or writing or blogging or just chatting. Contrary to what the rest of this post will suggest, I am an approachable person.

However, if you IM me, and I don’t respond within the first five minutes, it’s probably because I am busy and have left my IM window open and active, and not because I am mean or nasty.

If you have nothing better to do than constantly send me random emails about what a bastard your coworker/mom/friend/employee/boss/relative is, particularly if when you do it, you employ sexist/misogynist/racist language… I’m not going to be particularly endeared to you.

If I am busy doing something, and I say “Sorry, I can’t talk right now, I’m busy” – please allow me the courtesy of being busy instead of continuing to spam chat at me and then getting upset when I’m not reading it. This is especially true if I’m busy enough that I’m putting up a DND/away tag, but I’d hope that the request would garner the same reaction.

Just because I have a new alt in a video game, and I may talk about that new alt on the internet, does not mean I want everyone I know to start talking to me while I’m on that alt. Especially if that alt is of the opposite faction that I normally play. If I say this to you… please afford me the courtesy to have my peace and quiet.

If you have nothing to say, IMing me to tell me you have nothing to talk about? Is annoying. Random chat is ok – I’m guilty of it myself. Constant play-by-play twitter style updates about what you’re wearing/eating/doing? Is unnecessary. That’s what Twitter is for.

I can’t solve all of your problems. I am, occasionally, in possession of a bit of life advice (especially if it’s about school, writing papers, cooking, or working on houses). I am happy to help. If you abuse that help, I will get annoyed. By abuse that help I mean you expect me to drop everything I’m doing whenever you need something. I am not on your staff.

If I feel you are abusing my good graces, I will try to change the subject, or I will start ignoring it. If that is too subtle, I will ask nicely. If nothing changes, even after my repeated attempts to say “You are annoying me with the constant blow by blow of how much your (whatever) sucks”… I will probably be less nice.

If I am the only person you ever talk to, and you send me whispers constantly the entire time both of us are online, regardless of what character/screenname I happen to log in… that’s weird.  Especially if every single conversation is about you and whatever your current problem is, or about you and how awful/depressed/miserable/stressed you are**. Maybe you don’t find it weird. I find it weird, because I do, occasionally, want to talk to other people. I am not your sister, your confidant, your therapist, or your best friend***. I am someone you met playing a video game or on the internet, and I can’t solve all of your problems. If you exhibit stalker-ish behavior – even if you are doing so with the best and most friendly and lovey and wonderful of intentions – you will still creep me out.

I don’t like guessing games. Never have, never will.  “Hey guess what?!” is too commonplace to really fuel the fire, but making me guess at who you are, what you did, or what awful thing happened to you today? Will piss me off.  If you keep doing it, it will make me even more angry, because not only are you being annoying, you apparently don’t have the common courtesy to stop doing something someone else tells you is annoying.  If “I really don’t like guessing games” is too nice… the next time I’ll be less nice.

And sadly, if at the end of all of this, you still can’t be arsed to pay attention to someone who is clearly saying “I don’t want to talk to you right now” – I will define very clearly, in no uncertain terms, when and where your approaching me is appropriate. If that’s even too hard, you will get banned/blocked/ignored. And I will delete your emails telling me what a horrible person I am for doing so.

I’m tired of being taken advantage of by people who can’t realize that someone else’s time and emotional energy is valuable, and that refuse to take very un-subtle hints. If that makes me an unfeeling, uncaring, insensitive jerk… then I guess the shoe fits.

So I’m sorry if I’ve offended your sensibilities about my character. And I really hope that people won’t label me as some cold, unapproachable asshole because I have personal space boundaries even on The Internets.

But to be quite frank, enough is enough, and I’m tired of this pattern repeating itself. This has gotten so bad that I find myself afraid to approach people for fear of coming across like one of the above mentioned out-of-balance relationships; opening a window because I’d like to ask someone something, or get an opinion or advice… only to close it because I’m afraid I’ll end up sounding like the people I’m so frustrated with isn’t fun****. I don’t like it, and I’m tired of it.

Hence this post.

*By jerk I mean simply, I am going to lay out my expectations of how communication works in no uncertain terms. This is what I want, or don’t want. Take it or leave it.

**Everyone needs a place to vent sometimes, and I’m totally OK with that. I’m not talking about “Man I really need to vent about this” – I’m talking about never having a conversation topic that isn’t you/your problems.

***This is not to deny that real, legitimate friendships can and do happen on the internet. They just don’t happen like this.

****As an illustration, I did that twice while I was writing this post. Once to ask for advice on wording something, and once because I’m not sure one of these points is clear enough to the point I want to make. Both chat windows were closed instead of sent.

13 Responses to Communication

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marty

October 14th, 2009 at 10:42 am

Amen.

Boundaries are important for each and every relationship, even married couples, best friends and people on the internet.

I think I will refer to this post when discussing internet boundaries from now on.

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Tami

October 14th, 2009 at 10:43 am

/sign

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Anna

October 14th, 2009 at 10:44 am

<3 to both of you. I was rather nervous about this post, as I didn't want it to drive people off.

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Steve

October 14th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Some people -need- to be driven off though. Like those people who do craptastic crap as mentioned in your post. I once again give 2 very hearty thumbs up.

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TJ

October 14th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Great post, Anna. A situation like this was the reason I actually shut down my old blog. Phil and I have talked about it before, and we think that, especially with blogging, a lot of it stems from the “one to many” aspect of blogging.

I get emails from people who tell me “We would be such good friends in real life!” and they talk to me like they know me so well. I talk directly to people, through my blog, every single day, and it comes across as a one to one relationship. It’s hard to grasp the concept that it is not one to one on my side. Not that the idea horrifies me, or I’m snotty about it, but I’m relating one to many while people are relating back to me one to one. It’s hard for someone on the blog reader side to really realize that the relationship doesn’t go two ways.

This isn’t to say that as a blogging, I’m above being friends with everyone who reads my blog. I’m NOT. I’m definitely not. But as an example, there is what Phil and I went through at the start of our relationship, after he’d been reading my blog for a year. He was friendly, and personable and familiar, and getting a really prickly, standoffish attitude in return. It took me a while to gently get him to the point where he understood that “Look, I know you know a lot about me, and I know that makes you feel close to me, but I DON’T KNOW YOU.”

I often get the people who realize they can IM me or talk to me in gtalk, and I always say hi and what’s up and talk for a minute. More often than not, this turns into someone wanting to converse every single day. Just like you, I want to be careful not to be a jerk here… but you see just how often I appear on AIM.

And… whoops. I just realized this was blog post length in your blog comments.

Mah bad!

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Anna

October 14th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

@TJ – I don’t mind post-length comments at all – and I appreciate hearing from you. When it comes to blogging, you know what’s what.

I just need to get better at communicating this to people. And find people that are better at taking hints, I think…

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Steve

October 14th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Okay, first, I saw “Arrens’” comment above, and I started wondering how I’d already commented.

Second, if one of those closed chat windows was to me (and even if it wasn’t), you should know that in those circumstances I’m totally approachable.

Third, /sign. (Fortunately, I don’t have those kinds of groupies. *knock wood*)

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Natalie

October 14th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Brava, chica! I applaud this entire article. The only thing I wouldn’t have changed was your disclaimer at the top of it (“this probably isn’t about you”). I would have flipped it around because now people who don’t realize their jerks will think, “Oh, well, she’s not talking about ME.” Whereas if you flip it, everyone reads themselves into it and will therefore be more aware of their own behavior. But back to your point: this is why I no longer sit on IM. Intermittent chatting adds to our society’s trend toward A.D.D. and washed-out, trivialized communication. I’m over twitter and facebook and (mostly) IM. Sheez… maybe this is a spark post for me… In any event, thanks for writing this. You go, girl!

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Brad

October 15th, 2009 at 7:30 am

I can completley relate to closing a chat window unsent out of concern for coming across badly. I can’t count the times I have had a little text box all filled out, only to not hit send.

Actually that’s one of the reasons I rarely comment on peoples sites, despite knowing how much I enjoy the comments I get. I don’t want to offend, or come across as the creepy stalker guy.

Just figured I would let you know that I agree with you, well said.

/Signed

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Itanya Blade

October 16th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Hey, Anytime I am being a bother, I will gladly take being told to get lost as a hint. I do have a tendancy to PM you with random silly stuff that’s off the wall. Not everyone has time for it.

But Marty said it best, boundaries are important and if someone can’t respect the “i’m busy right now.” yadda yadda. That’s something they need to deal with.

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Communication Recommendations | Through the Eyes of Death

October 20th, 2009 at 7:56 am

[...] week, Anna posted about communication troubles she’s had dealing with random people on this wonderful tool known as the Internet. If you [...]

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Naithin

October 24th, 2009 at 2:11 am

I’ve came to this comment box, started, and deleted several times now. :P Primarily because I don’t yet know you all /that/ well and thus didn’t end up wanting to become one of those that fall within the content of your post. :P I only ended up here through Arrens’ post and link.

Besides that, all I really had to say before was that I totally approved and agreed, and heaven help me if I ever DID end up within this list of behaviours, don’t hesitate in letting me know in no uncertain terms.

Now though, I have one to add to the list. It’s one I faced a long time ago during AC1 and SB for that matter when I was a GL. It’s happening again now though with someone sometimes:

If I don’t answer you, don’t login to play with you when I’m at home and otherwise occupied, or otherwise don’t respond to you in the way you want, it isn’t because I hate you, no longer find your company to be pleasant.. However.. Constantly saying these things for reassurance will quickly make them a self fulfilling prophecy.

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Anna

October 24th, 2009 at 11:15 am

@Naithin – That’s an excellent addition actually. And very true :)

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