Monday, February 11, 2008

Rethinking technology

Being socially awkward and single, I’m a huge fan of text and instant messaging. The last time I was single, the thought of talking to prospects on the phone completely stressed me out – awkward silences, unsuccessful attempts to bring the conversation to a close – eh, not for me. So I was delighted to find this time around that nowadays you can get to know people without actually speaking to them. In fact, if I give someone my number and he actually calls me instead of texting, it tends to scare me off.

I’m starting to think, however, that all of this electronic communication might not be such a good thing. The impersonality of it gives people a precarious kind of confidence. I first saw the darker side of electronic courage when I met an avid text messager (I’ll call him TMer) last fall. A day of texting might have gone something like this:

TMer - 3:02 pm: wut u up 2?
Me – 3:10 pm: not much
TMer – 3:13 pm: jst back from workin out. want 2 hang out?
Me – 3:20 pm: no thanks, got some stuff to do
TMer – 4 pm: rock o luv marathon on, want 2 come over?
Me – 4: 25 pm: no thanks, busy
TMer – 7 pm: headin out 2nite?
TMer – 8:30 pm: headin to kincades, u?
TMer – 1:22 am: hope u had a good nite :)

This went on for weeks, possibly months. After I stopped responding entirely, I got “where u been hidin?” messages. I had to change my text message alert because I started to recoil in some kind of Pavlovian response to the sound.

But I wasn’t ready to break things off with my keypad. I just love the concept of talking to people without actually talking. So I continued to stand by electronic over personal communication. Until today, after I had an extremely unfortunate instant-message conversation with someone I’ll call IMer. Because I clicked the window closed in horror, I’m paraphrasing the following:

IMer: lunch today?
Me: brought lunch
IMer: you sure? i’ll pay
Me: got to eat my chili


IMer: how was your chili?
Me: tasty
IMer: i’m glad
IMer: how’s your tummy?
Me: full
IMer: how are your bowels?
IMer: from your silence, i think i should retract that comment
Me: uh, yeah… was reading something
IMer: gotcha, i will let you work, i feel like i am the annoying guy you wish you’d never met
Me: don’t think i know you well enough for bathroom talk
IMer: i understand

And that’s the end of that. Just a wild guess, but I’m thinking had we been talking face-to-face, he wouldn’t have inquired about my BMs. Is electronic communication causing us to be too comfortable with relative strangers? I know I’ve sent a few alcohol-induced texts I’d like to take back. Or maybe this new technology is a good thing. Maybe it has allowed me to spot stalkers and number two fetishes before any real damage is done, i.e. before they know where I live…


Jessica said...

It's interesting how IMer's comments were all in abbreviated IM speak until he said something completely stupid. Then, it's like the IM mask came off, and he started using sentences (almost) like a human being.

Abby said...

This is precisely why I don't use text messaging. I'm so glad that I'm still stuck in the voicemail era.

Dr. Bob said...

I've had to tell members of my staff on multiple occasions to not use email for "difficult" communications. They express their dissatisfaction in a diatribe that incenses the recipient. When asked, the staff member admits that was not the result they were hoping for. I ask them if they wouldn't say it in person, why are they saying it electronically? Ultimately, it comes down to people will edit themselves when talking face-to-face, but the freedom of not editing is unleashed by technology.

Amy said...

Update: The microwave on my floor wasn't working today so I had to use a different one... and what do you know.. i run into TMer. And even though I'm clearly carrying tupperware, he says, "No, you're not allowed to use the bathroom on this floor." Apparently he doesn't edit potty talk out of his face-to-face conversations either.

Pam said...

I'm truely grateful he doesn't know where you live.
The reason texting is more comfortable that face to face is the freedom to edit before your message is unleashed. Apparently he carefully made the decision to ask about your BM's.

Amy said...

Oops I meant IMer, not TMer ... I'm grateful too. Unfortunately he does know where my cube lives.

Katie said...

As someone who was against the texting at first but has been reborn as an avid texter, I had a similar encounter with a "TMer" that went on far too long. The guy couldn't spell for shit and always used improper grammar. Hello, haven't you heard of T9word? Your slang and missing letters does not make you more attractive. Oh and another thing, just because you call me 'babe' after one date does not make it less creepy just because it's over text.

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