My First Rule of GChat

HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT GCHAT? My “Answers to Common Questions About Gchat” post may be helpful to you.

GChat Status Let me start by saying this. If you are still using Hotmail or Yahoo or any other type of web-based (or even worse: non-web based!) program that is not Gmail, finish reading this post and then go SIGN UP!

Google is one of those companies of which I am truly in awe. (Facebook, Twitter, Apple, AIM, are others that come to mind). Google’s products have COMPLETELY revolutionized our lives. Gmail, Google’s web-based mail application, simply BROKE THE MOLD and shifted the way we think about e-mail communications.

The first example of Gmail’s uniqueness I can think of at the moment is the threaded conversation feature, which has made it easier to follow the life of an e-mail. And the second is its chat feature within the mail client.

In fact, GChat is to this second era of the internet what American Online and American Instant Messenger were to the first. (And, as I wrote in October, it has helped bring about the convergence of our offline and online identities.) People you e-mail a certain number of times get added to the list of people you can chat with. And there are different ways to alert those people to your availability: you can be available to talk, idle if you’re away from the computer, ask people not to message you if you are busy and, lastly, you can “go invisible”. This last status allows you to view and message your contacts without allowing them to do the same.

In the past few weeks I’ve had several experiences which have led me to the creation of my first rule for GChat: I do not talk to those who have made themselves invisible. Why, you ask?

To begin, I consider myself to be a compassionate and loyal friend who stands by and supports the people she cares about. And, truly, I expect nothing less from the people that I allow to be a part of my life. Yes, those words were chosen carefully – being a part of my life and commanding my friendship are privileges.

When someone is “invisible” it means that they can contact me if they need me, but I can’t contact them to do the same. It ruins any chance at a reciprocal relationship which makes it inherently selfish. And that’s the sort of thing that I just can’t tolerate from those around me.

Listen, folks, I know it seems like such a trivial thing to get caught up in, but I think it’s a small thing that reflects a person’s general personality and that’s why it bothers me.

But, let me turn it over to you. How do you feel about “invisible” people on GChat? Do you yourself have rules for GChat?

HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT GCHAT? My “Answers to Common Questions About Gchat” post may be helpful to you.

  • dsaxman

    I agree – and as we were talking about yesterday on a similar topic, being invisible and sending a message to someone you just met (or found in a search) is equally as one-sided and frowned upon. Fortunately with Yahoo and GMail, you can send a message to someone who doesn’t appear as online and it will still be delivered – either immediately because they are hidden, or put in a queue/emailed to them for delivery when they log in. Regardless, I think the practice is rude in either scenario.

    Equally as rude is signing in automatically and then backgrounding the browser with GMail open in it, so you never see messages that people send you. I’ve set mine to not sign me in automatically since I typically remote into multiple machines at once and would not always remember to sign myself out.

  • Rex

    I still prefer Yahoo Messenger- firstly because I LOVE the smileys. I’ve been on it for a decade and no other program has such a large variety of cute smileys that are utterly appropriate to various situations.
    As for privacy- Gtalk sucks because it’s all or nothing. Either everyone sees you online or no one. Yahoo lets you selectively reveal yourself to those you want to talk to and hide from the rest. So as a courtesy, you CAN make yourself visible to whoever you’re talking to.
    Selective invisibility on chat is an important enough feature for me- there are times I don’t wannna be disturbed by anyone, yet need to see who’s available.
    As an aside- Google hasn’t updated the standalone client in over 3 years, they just go on improving the gmail built in version (because they’re in the search business and the browser’s more important than a standalone app)

  • Gib Wallis

    I have to disagree with you in part on this one.

    As Rex mentioned, there are times when it may be useful to see who’s online.

    I appreciate the idea of reciprocity with friendship, but rather than taking immediate offense, I think it’s wise to just say, “Oh, hey, it says you’re not online. What’s up with that?”

    If it’s someone who’s generally NEVER availably to you in a rapid manner, but they OFTEN approach you for an immediate answer, it would make sense to me to lower them in priority when they have favors or requests that are timely and you’re otherwise busy.

    Regarding DSaxman’s comment, I find GMail a little overwhelming — I have an account that’s mainly for web signups and receipts. I’ve been using it for other things recently, but I really can’t be bothered to learn all of the options.

    I’ve started using iChat to login to Google Talk and have turned off Google talk from within GMail — too distracting and as was mentioned, it can get buried beneath a window I don’t check every two minutes.

  • JB

    I respectfully disagree with the invisibility thing – I see it as a much truer way of saying you are unavailable, by actually not making yourself seen/available, rather than using the “red dot” feature where people can see you are clearly on gchat, not idle, so using gmail and likely chatting – just not with them. Of course if you message someone while invisible, clearly you are then available and the proper thing to do is re-visibilize. On another note regarding chat etiquette – turning off the idle notification on gchat or IM can also be placed into the “rude” or “poor etiquette” category since you are misrepresenting yourself – people see you as available and willing to talk, while you may actually be in another country/not at instantly available to chat – which is the essence of “instant” messaging. And finally, while I will not put a specific amount of time on how long before responding, the longer the delay (without reason of course), the more controversial the move – again, instant messages, ideally, should be responded to instantly, and of course not responding at all is just downright rude (unless you explain the reasoning behind it at a later time).

  • Mark Drapeau

    I have been invisible on Gchat since October 2008.