Do you like to chat?

I have a confession. I’m an avid internet user but I despise chat. Am I alone? I dropped into Facebook a while ago and a chat window popped up. “WASSUP Dude?!” said a guy I used to work with but don’t know from Adam. “Gaaaaah!!” said I, in my head like. I wish Faceache had given me some warning so I could have turned off the chat option straight away. Which I did. Right after saying WASSUP!? or something.

Admittedly like many I was briefly addicted to mIRC 12 or so years ago, and ran up some scary dial-up bills. But the insane thrill of chatting to someone from a different country quickly turned into an inane trill. When the giddiness wore off, all that was left was mundane chatter and people slapping each other with trouts, which was then the equivalent of being bitten by a vampire, except back then then you actually typed
*Braines slaps VirtualGurl72 with a trout*
. (Note: To be properly affiliated with the old school, you have to mention that you used to have to type lots of stuff to produce an action achieved by just clicking a mouse in this modern age). The attraction of slapping someone with a trout made about as much sense then, as virtual vampires do now. I have to admit, the Top Chat Quotes of All Time mostly gleaned from mIRC is well worth a gander now and then for some geek humour.

When ICQ was all the rage, I gave it a whirl but hated it, and uninstalled it quicker than you can say “Oh, I SEEK YOU! I get it!”. I briefly tried Instant Messenger some time after, thinking for some reason that it may be less annoying. It’s not just that I’m above the inane chatter in my lofty towers of deep thought. It’s those windows popping up all over the place when I’m trying to do something else of great importance. A disturbing attempt at doing a comedy sketch for example.

I’ll do my best to avoid the usual sexual stereotyping in saying this – but I am actually pretty useless at multitasking – and even more so when I’ve no control over the amount of windows popping up all over the place. I really don’t like lots of little windows. Not sure why. Maybe it was that brief stint in San Quentin. I also fret over chat etiquette much more than is necessary, which in itself is very distracting. “Can I close that window now?”, “How long do I have to wait?” “Do I say goodbye first?”. Nerve-shattering dilemmas I’m sure you’ll all agree.

When Gmail chat came along, I tried again. My list of contacts who were using chat was small enough so all was well with the world. People chatted to me with purpose. When the purpose had been purported, the chat was ended. Neat. But then the chit chatters began to emerge.“Yo John, what’s the story?”… “Well, I was working but I’ll be spending the next ten minutes wondering exactly how soon I can close this window.” (Apologies if you actually understand what the word purported means. I only looked it up after I abused it.)

I suppose a part of this is the fact that I’m not that good at chit chat in real life. I love a good old chin wag – and have friends I’ll happily listen to for hours. But bored hairdressers fill me with dread. And bumping into a co-worker I barely know on a long commute fills me with utter terror. An hour of small talk!!? I actually shivered just now. I also have a relative who, without fail, starts every conversation with “What’s the story?”. I’m never sure which story to tell. No – not good at the chit chat.

Myself and the missus have tried turning on chat now and then rather than sharing 40 emails to sort out some domesticalities, and profess our undying love of course. But we both get bombarded with chit chatters and run screaming, vowing never to turn chat on again, ever. It’s a bit like vowing never to drink wine then beer (in that order) – but not a fraction of the fun.

And the jury’s still out on Twitter. Ok it’s not live chat but it can get a bit chatty from what I’ve seen. Although none of it is directly to me, so that’s ok. It’s an odd sort of chatter. Like having a pint and listening in on the next table. A happy medium in both senses of the phrase. Maybe. I’m still trying to get into the swing of it.

By the way, I’m not talking about YOU in all of this. No no no. You and I had meaningful conversations. It was all those other guys firing up too many windows with the chit chat.

  • Reply ben

    June 16, 2008, 8:02 am

    great post john. Can totally relate with the whole ‘when is it ok to close this window’.

  • Reply John Braine

    June 16, 2008, 9:00 pm

    Thanks Ben! Had this rolling around my head for a while. Good to do a brain dump.

    Yeah there’s probably some kind of gmail chat guide or something but I could never be arsed.


  • Reply Xbox4NappyRash

    June 18, 2008, 8:56 am

    I absolutely hate unsolicitated chatters.

    Yet at the same time, I can’t bring myself to turning them off.

    MSN allows you to sign in ‘offline’which is better than signing in and then going ‘offline’, I’m terrified people will notice and take offence.

    Yahoo allows you you apprear online or offline individually to contacts, which is a lot of work and kind of remembering a series of lies.

    Google chat just confuses the bejaysus out of me between the webmail/chat interface and the client, I never know if I’m online or offline half the time.

    I wish the programs wouldn’t give the game away to your contacts so easily, I want a ‘wouldn’t you like to know’ status.

    Good post.

    I need a lie down.

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