Not all of my time spent inworld is consumed with exploring, building, shopping and dancing, in fact, that probably only accounts for around 70% of what I get up to. The remaining time, you might well assume that I’m rather inactive, since I can often be found apparently just sitting, or standing, around with very little evidence that anything is going on.
If you were to find me apparently busy doing nothing, there’s a very good chance that your initial impression is incorrect, in fact, those occasions when I’m alone and immobile are frequently those when I’m more focussed on SL than usual. There’s a very good chance, for example, that I’m engaged in a tussle with a recalcitrant script, trying everything I can think of to persuade it to do what I want. At other times, I’ll be fully absorbed in one of those two most horrendous and soul-destroying of inworld tasks: sorting out my inventory, or uploading products to Marketplace, both necessary evils that tend to take up inordinate amounts of time, and are frustratingly awkward to do.
It’s to engage in these activities, that I’ll often retire to a quiet corner, away from prying eyes, and just get on with the job. Frequently, this will see me stood alone on my build platform, or tucked away in a private space on the sofa; to all outward appearances, doing nothing much at all, but in reality totally absorbed with the task at hand.
Now, if you were to ask my opinion, I would say that where you choose to lounge, or stand around aimlessly in SL, is a fairly good indicator of whether or not you are amenable to company. If, for example you’re hanging around on a street corner, in a ‘public’ area, either alone or in the company of others, I think it’s fair to assume that a friendly ‘hello’ or acknowlegement in local chat is completely in order, and it could even be considered rude not too. Certainly, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive a friendly greeting in return, but most people inworld are friendly enough and will be more than happy to share a little of their time with you.
On the other hand, if you happen to spot somebody secreted away 5000 metres up in the sky on a build platform, or hidden away behind closed doors in what is clearly a home, I’m pretty certain that if you were to suddenly turn up next to them, unannounced and unexpected, you’re pretty likely to receive a frosty reception. If that seems odd to you, then just imagine sitting at home in RL, binge-watching TV in your dressing-gown and fluffy bunny slippers, when a complete stranger barges in, makes themselves at home, and wants to talk to you about some random topic; or, equally unexpectedly, somebody off the street barges into your place of work, whilst you’re in the middle of an important meeting, and demands your attention. It’s exactly the same principle.
However, some people just don’t get it.
Generally, I’m happy enough to stop and talk to anyone when I’m not busy and out in public, and indeed, recently a visitor to the sim turned up and did just that, when myself and few friends were gathered for an evening at our local club. He seemed to like our music, and was happy to chat and be friendly. In fact, he turned up again in our midst the next night. All perfectly OK.
A couple of days later, I’m all alone on my build platform, updating some items on Marketplace, when suddenly my new ‘friend’ appeared at my shoulder, as if this was a perfectly natural thing to do, and then proceeded to try and have a chat with me. It was intrusive, annoying and unwanted attention that I could have done without, and even though my answers to his questions were somewhat terse, and I made it crystal clear that I was busy, he didn’t seem to get the hint. Eventually, I just stopped responding, and after a few minutes of radio silence, he left as suddenly as he’d arrived.
You may think I was being unfriendly, but to be surprised like that by someone I barely knew, in a space that I consider to be private, and is intentionally well off the beaten track, was actually somewhat uncomfortable and extremely intrusive.
I suppose I could have just ignored him, but I was busy working, and his mere presence was a distraction that I really could have done without. I could have simply told him to clear off, even booted him off the parcel, but that would have been heavy-handed and rude, and I honestly thought that telling him I was busy would have achieved the same objective. I was clearly wrong!
There are, of course options we can use if we really don’t want to be disturbed: Like the ‘unavailable’ or ‘away’ tags, but they have their pitfalls… You can easily miss messages that you want to receive, or end up annoying friends whom you really don’t mind hearing from, no matter how busy, and anyway, if someone wants to hang around and be distracting, wearing an ‘away’ tag isn’t always going to work. You can protect your personal spaces with ban lines, but they’re ugly, useless at anything over 50 metres and, as is the case with my home sim, may not be allowed anyway. As for security orbs, well they are just plain overkill, and in my opinion, totally unnecessary.
So, really, it all comes down to plain good manners. It’s not hard to figure out that a lone avatar, in what is clearly a private space, or who has taken themselves far from passing traffic, is not seeking company, and they certainly don’t want univited visitors to suddenly appear right next to them… So don’t!
However, if you’re exploring the streets and bump into someone passing-by, or perhaps hanging about on a street corner with nothing better to do, or maybe looking lonely and lost, sat on a park bench somewhere, by all means, say ‘hello!’ – after all, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
Down the court road early
With the Hustlers big and burly
There’s a million of ’em selling
And the buyers can be found
They’re just hanging around
The Stranglers – Hanging Around