IncoMing: Too Much of A Good Thing

October 22, 2007 at 6:48 pm (Communication, Friendship, Life, Love, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , )


I have another confession. And this one might actually point to a character flaw. For those who think I suffer from perfectionist delusions of grandeur, you should be gratified to read this post.

Now that I’ve built it up it seems I need a drum roll. So here it is: My name is Cindy Kesey and I am a habitual communicator. I find it physically impossible NOT to respond to an incoming message from a friend. This inclination is loudly demonstrated in Second Life through my inability to ignore incoming IMs (instant messages to those of you who live in the jungle and aren’t yet plugged into the world of immediate contact). But it also rears its head at home, at work; anywhere someone may attempt to correspond with me.

For example, both my personal and work email inboxes are always clean. Meaning simply that I always–and I mean ALWAYS–read incoming messages as soon as I receive them. I may not respond to them or even delete them immediately, but I read them the minute they arrive. Perhaps I do this because I continue to be amazed that others find me important enough to send me a message. But more so it’s probably because, like a toddler whining desperately to stay up past his bedtime, I just don’t want to miss anything.

In SL this tendency has caused me my share of problems. In world I often suffer from “blinking tab syndrome,” an affliction where I receive multiple incoming messages from a variety of friends across the grid at the same time. Many people I know would simply say “Hi…I’m busy. Let’s chat later.” But not me. I attempt to respond to every one no matter what I’m doing, who I’m with, or how many IMs I’m already responding to at that given moment. That means I can have multiple conversations going at once, both in world and out. And that is more often than not the case.

Some of you reading this are probably having an “Aha!” moment right now. This finally explains why it sometimes takes me eons to respond to you when you ask me a question or try to engage via chat. Maybe some of you already have this problem yourselves and struggle to maintain multiple simultaneous conversations. And then there are those of you are sitting there thinking, “what the hell is this Second Life and why does this crazy woman keep writing about her meaningless virtual experiences there?”

The answer to that last question brings me to back to my original admission. Because I think this impulse, while manifested mostly in world, actually speaks to a larger personality proclivity: the inclination to amass a large group of friendly acquaintances versus the propensity to cultivate fewer but more meaningful friendships. I prefer to think I can do both: enjoy a plethora of enriching friendships that are as intense in connection as they are abundant in number. But I know there is a price to popularity and many of my most favorite people sometimes suffer when I’m distracted by copious conversations. I’m sure it appears on the receiving end that I don’t listen or connect with folks as I would if I was sitting across from them over a cocktail. And that is probably true.

So what’s a girl to do? Does being a SL social butterfly mean I’m doomed to miss out on deep connections with folks I care about? I certainly hope not. For that is why I’m there in the first place. I’ll guess I’ll just simply have to try harder.



  1. Trow said,

    and so after that, i have to stop by the grocery store, but i should be home by 6:00.

  2. Trow said,

    oops…how embarrassing… i typed that in the wrong window..please ignore 🙂

    Fun post Cindy…from a fellow sufferer…who regrets ignoring friends, and being distracted often.

  3. Ero said,

    So let’s get this straight. Say for the sake of argument that you and I are on a date, or even that we are meaningful friends in RL, and you whip out your blackberry, do your thumb magic, say every 2 minutes. Likewise, I am staring at the TV over the bar watching the game while nodding or shaking my head in random intervals. Chances are, we would not consider this ritual to represent the best we have to offer. Then why do that to others in SL? Just because we CAN receive IM’s anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean we ought to respond or read them. What gets lost is deep, meaningful conversations and connections. This month’s Atlantic Monthly has a great article on this very subject, and if it weren’t tucked away in the upstairs bathroom at the moment, I would give you the title for your future edification.

    Less is more. Go slow to go far. Try harder.

    Oh, and I hope it is obvious that I am guilty of this myself, but luckily I’m just not that popular.


  4. Joonie Jatho said,

    Guilty of same. And I agree with Eros. There really is no excuse for it. Are we trying to be all things to all people?

    I don’t know. I do know that as much as it might hurt and/or disappoint those with whom I am attempting to have multiple convos with, I am the one who loses the most….that precious connection between two people and the intimacy (emotional) that takes place because of it.

  5. AI said,

    J’agree with Joonie and Ero. And I’m guilty too.Mea culpa.

    Staying focused on the one you’re with, whatever “with” means (physical or virtual closeness, or involvement in conversation) is one of the best skills of the best communicators. This is one of the things that people who ever got close to him said was so amazing about Bill Clinton: that when you were talking to him, you had his full attention, and it made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him.

    Mebbe this is theoretical, but I peeps will love ya for that kinda thing. Of course, if that’s not what you really want, you’ll act accordingly, and your conversations will just sorta trail off, along with your relationships. I’m thinking.

    Of course, this kinda focus is hard enough to attain in rl. I mean, almost everyone has a cellphone. There’s a dayum tv everywhere you go. You have the iPod option, too, and I know peeps who actually try to talk around those. But I think this whole thing is even harder in sl. It’s easy to get distracted, and it’s also very easy to pretend that you’re not. It takes discipline to stay with someone, in the best sense of the word, when you have 7 other friends trying to become the object of the same focus. But Joonie’s right: “I’m the one who loses the most…”

  6. Mylena Aquitaine said,

    Hi Cindy

    Great blog btw, just started reading andf I’ll be back for more 🙂

    I too suffer from the same affliction and to make matters worse I’m an incredibly slow typist.

    I’ve found over time that my inability to respond in a timely manner has cost me potential “important” friends. Invariably these were people whom I met whilst not particularly busy and could converse deeply… People with promise… Yet, on subsequent IMs, I was too busy, or too slow, or both, to give them the attention they deserved and after a few superficial conversations, they gave up. Being one that doesn’t usually speak until spoken too, I never followed up on them. Sad really, and totally my fault.

    Over time I’ve ended up with a fairly limited friends list, but one of people that really matter to me. Do I wish for more of them? Of course…. for me, the grid is a lonely place indeed when they are not online. I explore by myself, but still long for the conversations and friendship, and for the thrill of meeting someone new. Still I prefer quality over quantity, and I cherish those people who thought I was worth their time and investment.

    Am I now able to say “sorry, busy, catch up with you later”… Unfortunately not. But I’ve learned to say, no matter how much out of character for me, “I’m swamped in IM… I really want to talk to you though, can this conversation wait?”

    Not everyone takes this gracefully, but I hope my friends know it simply means I want to give them my undivided (or less divided) attention…. because they matter to me.

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