Personal Space in Virtual Space

It may all be virtual, but people still need time for themselves. And though it is all pixels and coding in a brave new world with its own set of rules to govern acceptable social interaction, that doesn’t mean we throw away certain etiquette. Let’s be considerate and reduce opportunities for us to be annoying to those who we claim to be friends of.

Personal space. We all need it to varying degrees, depending on how introverted or extroverted we are. It’s a universal part of the human condition.

Every resident probably has a collection of stories of ways in which they have been aggravated by someone who has chosen to be inappropriate and, therefore, bothersome. In fact, some people avoidance cope when faced ith overwhelming in-world social pressures by making alts – an aspect of SL culture that many like to be critical of. It’s a vicious cycle, indeed.

In speaking with several residents, here are some of the common frustrations in dealing with others and some related advice.

(It’s long, so, more after the cut)

• The IM Pounce
Immediately sending someone a message after their online notification pops up on your screen

To the Speaker: People generally need some breathing time when they log on to SL. Answering any received offlines and reading accrued group and subscribe-o-matic notices may take some time. Not to mention the fact that the person you’re messaging may be logging on after a long day of dealing with other people’s bullshit at work or school, and may be logging on to SL to decompress from the pressures of the rat race. You may be really excited to see someone’s online notification pop up on your screen. Keep in mind that, though SL says they are online, chances are they are still stuck on the loading screen, and being met with your instantaneous message can be jarring. Exercise some restraint and wait 5 to 10 minutes before initiating an IM conversation.

To the Listener: When consistently receiving the IM pounce from one of your friend list contacts, don’t blow a gasket and let it get under your skin. Just take your time in responding. Intentionally let the message sit for 5 to 10 before responding. If the person asks why you took so long to respond, you can simply say that you were dealing with other things … which is true (even if you were just staring at your screen and nothing else).

• Conversational Repetition
Rehashing the same things over and over

To the Speaker: Think about it: who likes hearing the same topic or questions parroted? Regurgitating content from previous conversations gets tired, and it can be construed as patronizing. No one wants to hear your babblings being rerun all the time – not even your mom – especially when you dominate the conversation all the time. In a mutually interesting conversation the speaker shouldn’t always be the speaker, and the listener shouldn’t always be the listener. It should be an exchange. If you’re hearing a delay in the listener’s response time or a lot of mhmms and uh-huhs (or dead air) from them, chances are you’re selfishly controlling the conversation and fostering a general disinterest in anything you say as a result. Think about how much talk time you tend to take up while chatting, then think about how much time your friend speaks. Ask yourself how much information do you know about them, then compare to with how much you have shared with them about you. If it doesn’t balance out to a 50-50 guesstimate, shut up once in a while and let someone else talk.

To the Listener: Being asked  or being drawn in to the same thing over and over (especially on a daily basis) can get very frustrating. When you tire of being presented with the same conversation (and this includes advice), calmly say your friend “I’m wondering how come you’re asking me this. Haven’t we discussed this before?” Friends who ask for your repeated advice on the same issue may simply be looking for an opportunity to let off steam and rant (trust me, they know they’ve asked you this a million times) and asking may be the only way they know how to engage you. Let them know its okay to just rant without dragging you into the drama if they need a shoulder to lean on, and if you can’t be that shoulder because you have other things going on, just say it.

• Busy means busy
Continually carrying on a conversation with someone who has indicated they are busy

To the Speaker: When you IM someone and are hit with the automatic busy mode message … wait. It seems common sense to mention, but it is a consistent complaint that most people can say they have ranted about (I know I have). Whether someone has busy mode activated or tells you themselves, “Hey, I’m busy at the moment” or “I’m AFK in Photoshop working on a project” take the hint and stop talking or typing in an effort to make a conversation develop. They are not busy with you, they are focused elsewhere – whether lost in IMs, some external program or otherwise engaged somewhere on the grid. Be considerate and let them center in on the task at hand. Stop waiting and relying on the people on your friends list to be entertained. There’s a whole wide world of things to occupy yourself with – live music, clubs, exploration, photography, blogging,  arts and literature. If you can’t come up with a single thing to do, log off.

To the Listener: If you’re like me there’s a certain level of obligation to respond to messages, even when you’ve clearly indicated you are busy. Let that go. We’re all adults, and if someone takes it personal or is not willing to accept that you simply can’t make time for them for the day or for the week – even though you may have something that is important to you that you are intently working on – ask yourself if indulging someone who chooses to disregard your interests and the time needed to nurture them is really worth it.

• Random Teleports
Sending out individual or mass teleports without first informing the teleportee(s) to gauge interest in the destination

To the Speaker/Teleporter: It’s unfortunate that you are not adequately in tune with social convention to know just how inconsiderate this is. It’s very presumptuous. The fact that few or none of those who you are sending your TP to actually take the damn thing should be a big, shiny clue. Refrain from teleporting someone before considerately letting them know its coming or asking whether they even have the time.

Additionally, the insistence on seeing someone’s avatar versus having an IM conversation can be a barrier to your friends wanting to spend any time with you at all. We’re all actively engrossed in pursuing some interest or another in SL – work, play, relationships – just like in real life. Your real life timetable doesn’t allow for face time with every single person you hold near and dear. It’s just not humanly possible. The same is true in SL, though distance is less of a factor.

One resident shares, “I don’t need to see you to converse with you. I have things to do.”

To the Listener/Teleportee: Don’t take the teleport or IM the person at all directly after receiving it. If they’re a good friend, set aside some time to spend with them, as this may be an indicator that they want to see you more often.

• Event Promotion in IM Conferences
Batch spamming all your online contacts at once with advertisements (for club events, in particular)

To the Speaker: “BEST IN COWBOY AT CLUB FUCKSTICK! YOU COULD WIN L$200!!!”*You really think someone who has consistently been in SL more than 3 months is likely going to be interested in this? If you want to advertise, invest L$100 in creating an update group, invite people and give them the choice of whether they want to be involved or not.

One resident comments, “If we’re supposed to be friends, IM me in person and ask if I want to come to an event of yours.”

The content of the ad aside, the CAPS are … just whoa. Not typing conversation in all caps is the same reason people don’t write correspondence in red ink. It’s overwhelming, and there are many unfavourable associations related to it that are visually intuitive, not to mention that it’s the text equivalent of shouting at someone (add more than one exclamation mark to it and you’re sure to have friends dropping like flies from your list of contacts). It has a perceived tone. When you’re talking on-phone or face-to-face with a real life friend or acquaintance to invite them out somewhere with you, do you YELL or do you speak in an even tone?

There is a reason that lower case/minuscules were created.  Use them.

To the Listener: Just close the IM, take three deep breaths and continue clicking the dialogue box options on your sex-o-matic bed.

• Good friends don’t have to talk every day to be good friends
To Speaker/Listener: There’s a common misconception that the more time you fill with someone the stronger the relationship is, so, the more of their time you suck up the more invaluable you are to them. Wrong. It’s a perception that’s based on insecurity that can actually be a deterrent to a healthy and balanced relationship. Quality, not quantity, my friends. In my experience, those who demand an excess of another friend’s time end up in the long-run with not many friends.

– – –

* Thank you, Oscar Page, for this perfect example.


8 Responses to “Personal Space in Virtual Space”

  1. This should be required reading at Orientation Island.

  2. Awesome post! I hate the impersonal random teleport requests!

  3. Zomg! Thank you for posting this. I think these are my some of my biggest pet peeves in SL. Will have to save the link to this post and paste it to everyone that annoys me and tell them to read it!

  4. i particularly love the last point. Good post, my eloquent chica.

  5. One resident shares, “I don’t need to see you to converse with you. I have things to do.”

    I was totally just thinking about this last night. SO TRUE. Seriously people, it’s exactly the same thing if you IM me and talk or make me come sit at your boring house and talk.

  6. The IM pounce is seriously annoying, I don’t want to hear that IM bell ring as soon as I touch down in my living room. There should be no IM pouncing unless there is some sort of work related emergency going down.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I would love to have it on a notecard to hand out. Really concise, well thought out! They all bug the crap out of me.

  8. The first is my biggest pet peeve. I even have it in my profile and people still do it.

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