I use G-chat a lot during the workday (obviously), but there are a couple of people on my list who seem to want to chat me more than I want to chat them (which is not much at all). I get sucked into chats easily, though, and end up talking for two hours to someone I don’t even really like. Going invisible hasn’t been enough because they know I’m always on. How can I avoid these situations?
G-chat invisibility is NOT STRONG ENOUGH, we’re agreed there. If you go invisible, your name shouldn’t appear on other people’s chat lists, you know? These people should also momentarily forget that you exist. You should fade out of their pictures of you both, like a ghost. And when you come back, it will be in degrees so small that they never even noticed you were gone. IF you come back.
There really is something about G-chat that makes you unusually willing to talk to people you don’t want to talk to, isn’t there? And I don’t really understand why, because the little blinking at the top of the tab is FAR more annoying than almost anything anyone could ever say. And it’s demanding and distracting, tricky on tone, and often hard to know how to leave the conversation. But it’s still so fun, and that’s why these people keep chatting you. They probably assume you’re having fun too.
So when you’re stuck in a chat with someone you’d rather not chat with, you should disengage. Right off the bat, you should say “Hey, sorry, too busy to chat right now!” If you do that a few times, these people should take the hint. If you’re not a fun and available chatting partner, most people will move on. If the chats keep coming, you can block this person on chat.
I once ran into a woman I only vaguely knew but who I did follow on Twitter, and when the time came to make conversation, I ended up landing on a recent tweet of hers. When I brought it up things got intensely awkward, like I'd run afoul of some social convention nobody bothered telling me about. So never again, I swore, which makes it all very interesting that a coworker has recently started checking in on the reg to discuss my tweets. Now that I'm on the receiving end I find it awkward, too. And it's all so ridiculous! What's the answer here? Should I just delete my Twitter?
Deleting your Twitter is the first step of many. Delete your Facebook, delete your Tumblr and your Instagram. Unpin your Pinterest pictures, then burn them all. Take back everything you’ve ever said: when you see your friends next, say to them, “I take back everything I’ve ever said. I meant none of it.” Switch your face with John Travolta’s face and start anew. Never speak in public: if you never say a word, nobody can ever paraphrase you back to you. Sure, the isolation might kill you. But at least nobody will ask you about the outfit you wore on your trip to Colorado. They “think” they saw that on Facebook or something, they don’t know.
Listen, the problem is not Twitter. The problem is people.
People are awkward. I mean, wow, have you noticed this? It is a crazy prominent issue. Nobody knows how to talk about anything, but they also love their voices and so they keep trying anyway. So they bring up Twitter. So do you. And that is fine. The answer is this: don’t give a shit. Who cares? Everyone is so weird I can’t believe it. If someone reacts strangely when you bring up something she put online, you say, “Oh, I’m sorry, did you mean to put that on your SECRET Twitter?” She’ll get it. She’ll probably laugh awkwardly and then shuffle away. Whatever! Do your part by not being like her. Embrace your coworker (symbolically). S/he’s just trying to find some way to relate to you before you’re both dead.
I’m in a little bit of a freakout because I just read your drunk texting admonishment and I am oh so guilty of drunk Facebook chatting and messaging. Not much “I'm sooo wasted!" but more like mentioning that I've had a few. Is that as bad?! Please say it's not.
It is as bad.
I don’t do improv or know much about improv, but I do know an improv rule I think you should keep in mind when you are considering doing some drunk communicating. It’s called “Yes And.” It works like this: in improv, when someone says something to you, you have to agree with the scenario put forth and then add something of your own. If someone says “Man, I hate working in this butcher shop!” you can’t say “We aren’t even IN a butcher shop!” because doing so completely shuts down the scene. It also makes everyone involved feel uncomfortable.
When you drunk chat (and a sidenote here: nobody likes Facebook chat! What are you even doing on there?) or text or message, you are that second person. When you announce to someone, apropos of nothing, that you’ve been drinking, you are saying, “We aren’t even in a butcher shop.” Because how is someone supposed to respond to a chat that reads something like, “I’ve had a few drinks ☺”? “Haha, cool”?? “Congratulations”? I’m sure you are very charming, but it’s just not ever all that likely that another person is going to be interested in hearing about that kind of thing. The only people you’re allowed to inflict your tipsiness upon are the people who agreed to go out with you in the first place, and anybody who happens to be home when you get there afterward. That is ALL.
FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.
Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.
Illustration by Cara Vandermey