Online interaction between humans brings out the worst in us.
It’s as if the ambiguity of representing yourself electronically is too much for our relatively unevolved psyches to understand and accept. It’s something we’re not taught from our youth, like how we gauge other interaction between people. Such a fluid thing is likely to cause problems.
Much like online interaction brings out the worst in us, it can be related to playing ‘the game’ while dating. The ideas are similar; neither party knows quite what the other is saying, and how things are meant usually are interpreted very differently by the other person.
As we speak, I’m having said issue. I popped online a few minutes ago, more as a distraction than a serious need to speak with anyone. A couple people were online, but only one person, whom I wouldn’t have minded speaking with, sat there ‘Online’, his little green man glowing, welcoming conversation.
I double clicked on his icon, then stopped. I don’t want to appear too needy/forward/irritating to someone who I was just talking to last night, so I should probably just see if he messages me.
A few moments pass. I busy myself with other things, checking messages and dropping a few ‘happy birthday’ messages to people on Facebook. Nothing is happening on the IM front; both our icons glow the happy green, and neither is making the first attempt at a hello.
So I sit there. I don’t really need to talk, but I’m getting a little irritated that he’s not so much as acknowledged my presence.
I look away to do something, and when I look back his status is now set to ‘Away’. Hrm…well, maybe he truly was busy, or had stepped away from his computer. Again, I turn around and work on other things.
After another ten minutes, I’ve decided it’s not really worth my time to sit here when nobody is talking to me. Might as well accomplish the 5000 other things I have to do. So, I set myself to ‘Appear Offline’, and get busy.
A couple minutes later, I notice that he has now gone back online.
This is where the uncertainty seems to be grounded in something more than a vivid imagination. When I’m online, he sets himself away…when I leave, he comes back online.
I try to be reasonable, rational. We really could have had some bad timing, he may have literally stepped away for those few minutes I was online, only to return when I went offline.
But the unlearned side of us, the side that deals with this new set of social interactions, really wonders if I’d just been ignored with such enthusiasm that a friend actually went to great pains to avoid speaking with me.
Of course, there’s no way to prove any of this, to answer the question and put the mind at ease. Everything online is so open ended; we have nothing else to interpret the other’s meaning except the naked words (or silence) that are sent to us. So how are you supposed to take it when a friend completely ignores your existence, simply reversing what you have done in an attempt to appear innocent?
And naturally, one can’t simply flat-out ask them, because you would look absolutely insane, desperate and paranoid. As we all know, I’m only two of those three things.
So I sit here still, he now back online, me still invisible, and I wonder if I’ve been silently slapped in the face, or if I’m just a paranoid egomaniac.
Yes, I know I have too much time on my hands.