Multi-tasking is something i do pretty well – whether at work, home or online, you’ll frequently find me in the throes of several different activities at once, and it’s something i find comes naturally. Even when i’m relaxing in sl, it’s a rare occasion – unless i’m focussed on building, or something that really needs my full attention – that i won’t have my viewer open on one screen and Photoshop on the other, whilst surfing the .net in the background! There are occasions, i have to admit, that the multiplicity of tasks i want to have on the go at the same time exceed what my poor PC is capable of providing! It’s also possible that you’ll find that, on top of all these other things, i’m cooking my tea in rl – but it’s never bothered me, i never struggle with such things and – for me – multi-tasking is the way forward.
The same is true within sl – i can quite happily be dancing away in a club, whilst contributing to several simultaneous conversations and be creating new gestures in the background – easy-peasy… but, there is a caveat: throw an IM into the mix and i’m completely scuppered.
IMs have an incredible capacity for reducing me into a useless heap of quivering pixel jelly. No matter what else i may be doing, if an IM pops up on my screen it renders me utterly incapable of concentrating on anything but the message – all activity stops, open chat grinds to a halt and anything else that requires my attention simply falls off the radar. During an IM conversation, i lurch from response, to inworld activity, to response in a sort of stilted, stop-motion parody of myself – i’m just incapable of carrying on a conversation in that way. It freaks me out, and whenever i see that little icon pop up in the corner of my screen, it’s with a sense of dread – nothing to do with who the caller may be, or what the message may contain, but everything to do with the knowledge that, in some ghastly RLV parody, i’ve been ensnared by the ultimate control of IM.
It’s for this reason, and possibly this reason alone, that i very rarely initiate an IM conversation. If someone is nearby, i find it far easier to engage in open chat, (weird, i know, but do you expect anything else from me?), if someone is online but elsewhere, you won’t find me firing off a friendly ‘hello’ – it’s not that i’m being ignorant or choosing to ignore someone… i just can’t cope with the burden of keeping up with an IM conversation.
The etiquette of IM is a minefield for me too: if i did indeed take the plunge and say ‘Hi’ when i spot someone come online, what then? Am i duty bound to engage in a conversation, enquire after their health, what they’ve been up to and catch up with any gossip? And at what point is it considered OK to let the chatter peter out – what exactly distinguishes an uncomfortably long pause from a natural vacuum? It always feels to me that every sentence in those sort of conversations ends in an ellipsis… has this come to a natural end?… should i say more?… erm…
Why is there no universally understood form of sl greeting that can simply be fired off to indicate that you want to send a friendly ‘hello’ and acknowledge somebody’s presence, but unless there’s anything absolutely pressing that really needs to be discussed right now, we don’t particularly need to sustain this conversation do we? Goodbye for now, and we’ll have a proper catch up next time we properly bump into each other! – No offence given, none taken and we’ve acknowledged our humanity and friendship – perfect!
Then there’s the sort of unexpected IM that simply leaves me floundering. Recently a chap i know, but not particularly well, sent me an IM: “Your outfit looks great”. Eeeek! How on earth am i to respond to that? If i’m too engaging with my reply, he might think i’m flirting, any less and i’ll probably come across as curt, even rude – i barely know this guy and he’s IM-ing me… to me, that’s the equivalent of calling me on my home number, whilst he probably just wanted to tell me my outfit looked great!
You really should know that having an IM conversation with me – partly for the reasons already explained, and partly because in this kind of scenario, i’m actually a terrible communicator – is a bit like pulling teeth, and probably a lot less fun for the recipient. If it’s disjointed, one-word answers you want, you’ve come to the right place. Long pauses? Yep – that’s me. If you like having to take the lead throughout the whole conversation and prompting for responses, then i’m an ideal candidate, but if it’s a nice, easy, relaxed chat you’re looking for, you really should be looking elsewhere – its not you, it’s me!
And what about my ultimate terror… multiple IMs, all at once? Yes, it does happen and yes, i do go completely into meltdown. Trying to conduct more than one IM conversation with different people at the same time is my idea of hell – to me, it’s the equivalent of tapping my head, whilst rubbing my tummy, whilst tap-dancing over broken glass, blindfolded. It’s the one thing i simply cannot do and, when it happens, i just go to pieces.
So, if our paths ever do happen to cross inworld, please don’t expect sparkling conversation and witty repartee – it ain’t gonna happen! And if you simply want to say ‘Hi’ and then move on, don’t worry… i won’t be offended!
Stop the talking baby
Or I start walking baby
Stop the talking baby
Or I start walking baby
Is that all there is?
Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up