Shut up!

I’m generally pretty good when it comes to multitasking – I can keep a multitude of balls in the air, whilst rubbing my tummy, patting my head and cooking dinner, all at the same time. I can have multiple conversations too, whether in the real world – which comes in terribly handy at frought meetings, where the ability to grab a deal-clincher in the midst of a morass of meaningless waffle can be very handy – or in SL, where amongst those with whom I associate the norm tends to be conducting eleventy-six different conversions in open chat at once!

Indeed, I might even go as far as saying that my communication skills have noticeably improved since joining SL, although I can’t necessarily say the same about the content!

However, there is one thing that’s guaranteed to mess me up almost every time: It can hijack my attention, destroy my concentration and totally derail my thought processes. It’s one thing about SL that I find incredibly irritating, horribly annoying and immensely frustrating. It is the uninvited IM, or – even worse – group chat.

I’ll deal with the IM first: I tend to not communicate all that much by IM. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bit like the telephone: Great for a quick ‘hello’ and catch up, useful for exchanging information over a distance or for a discrete private exchange, and handy for getting a message to someone when there are other distractions vying for their attention. Other than that, I view them as mostly redundant at best; a pain in the backside, at their worst.

The most annoying aspect of the intrusive IM is that they almost always come from someone you know, someone who should know better. It will invariably be an acquaintance – one of those on your friends list that doesn’t really need to be there – and someone who knows you well enough to have a good general idea of when you’re most likely to be hanging out with friends, busy, or unlikely to want to be disturbed, (like, for example, within 5 minutes of logging in!) Despite this, they will invariably message you out of the blue, and then try to engage you in a rambling conversation. There are a number of irritant elements to this conversation: a) it will completely distract you from whatever you were doing at the time; b) it will be full of content that utterly bores you; c) you will nevertheless feel compelled to respond – albeit with hidden homicidal undertones – because they are, of course, a ‘friend’; d) it will contain long, heavy silences, during which you vainly hope that the whole thing has finally petered out, only for the next instalment to jump out at you, just at the point you were starting to relax; e) it will be randomly peppered with URLs, images and LMs that you have no interest in, and are probably a little bit wary of opening… Just in case, and f) at some point, you will consider feigning a crash, but you know that no matter how long you give it, they’ll still be there waiting for you when you return.

Just as distracting is the group chat. That little icon pops up on your screen and, try as you might to avoid it, you just have to open it – fatal mistake. Invariably, bizarrely, you never get notified at the start of a group chat session, so you always end up with a randomly confusing response to an ongoing conversation for which you have no context. The typical group chat tends to follow one or more clearly defined paths: a) the argumentative slanging match, complete with well-meaning, but totally inflammatory voice of reason attempting to pour oil on troubled water; b) the call for assistance – “Can somebody help me?”; c) the gushing flattery dished out by a satisfied customer, no doubt going for a freebie or gift card in return, or d) the scam link to a dodgy ‘marketplace’ page, followed by a stream of ‘don’t click that link’ messages.

The trouble is, with all this white noise going on in the background, I find it difficult to concentrate on my immediate surroundings. Yes, I know I can just ignore it, switch it off or simply choose not to open that chat window when the icon pops up, but somehow it compels me to take a look, and once I’ve taken that fateful step, I find it difficult to escape. And therein lies my downfall

I know I don’t have to take any notice and that it’s really my own responsibility to opt out, but I just wish that sometimes people would shut the hell up!

It’s just noise – nasty, annoying, intrusive, unwelcome, distracting, irritating, attention-grabbing, interfering noise. Like lawnmowers on a sunny afternoon in the garden, people eating crisps on the train, and the overly loud conversation in the corner of the coffee shop. It gets in the way of what you want to be doing and drags your attention away from the things that matter.

Maybe I should just take a leaf out of the book of a friend who has made a point of stating in his profile that he doesn’t answer IMs, refuses to acknowledge them and gets on with his SLife without those annoying interruptions. Then again, some messages aren’t all that bad, and some are necessary, so that seems like overkill really.

What I need is a bot that can deal with all my messages: One that filters out the rubbish and is capable of engaging in private conversation at a basic level – which is somewhat more than I’m capable of doing! Perhaps then, no longer plagued by the noise drowning out the important stuff, I can at least make something of an effort to be sociable…

Then again, perhaps not!

s. x

Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up
Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up

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