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Scylla Rhiadra

Public Chat or IM? Has a Culture Shift in SL Made It Harder to Meet People?

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Second Life has changed a great deal in the 11+ years I've been here in some pretty obvious ways. The technology (and especially the graphics) are markedly better, while "creation" has shifted away from in-world building to work in off-world platforms such as Blender, to cite but two of a long list of possible examples.

One of the more profound changes that I've noticed, however, has been a less easily explicable shift in how we communicate with each other in-world. It seems to me (and I will grant that others may well have different experiences) that there has been a general move away from the use of public chat in social spaces such as clubs or meeting spots, and a greater reliance upon one-on-one IMs to connect with others. I have found this evident in some of the clubs that I used to frequent that were, at one time, quite "chatty," but that, while still jam-packed, are now nearly silent because everyone is in IM instead (although one club I go to does still feature healthy public chatter). My experience of non-club social spaces, such as London, is similar: where these used to feature lots of general public chat, they now seem to consist of avatars standing around like silent gravestones, with all or at least most of the socializing occurring in IM.

Again, I'm sure individuals may have different perceptions of this depending upon the type of place they now frequent, and even I know of exceptions to this phenomenon. I'll also concede that this perceived change represents a shift in the balance, rather than a wholesale upending of an older culture of connection: even 10 years ago, at the public social venues I frequented, IMs were still, obviously, an important part of connection. It just seems to me that there has been a not-so-subtle realignment in the way that public and private chat relate to each other.

I bring this up because of a recent exchange in another thread here, where someone expressed the belief that it was now much more difficult to connect successfully in IM these days.

Most of the people I've got to know well in SL I interacted with first in a public venue, in-world or here on the public forums. That has meant, I think, that I have a much more comprehensive sense of who they are: watching someone interact with others is a really good way to get a sense of that person. I almost never "cold call" someone in-world through IM without having first become acquainted with them in a more public environment, and, frankly, when I receive an IM from someone I don't already know through a broader social community, I tend to assume (I think mostly justifiably) that they have an agenda of some sort (which is most often, tbh, about sex).

Maybe I'm wrong in my perception that there has been a culture shift in our use of IMs and public chat? And probably there are people who prefer to connect, initially, through IM rather than more slowly getting to know them through their engagement with a broader public community?

So, I want to ask: do you prefer to become familiar with someone through their interactions in public before taking the leap to IM?

Or are you more comfortable with going straight to a one-on-one conversation?

Which approach has proven to be more effective, for you, in meeting and maybe befriending other people?

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Very good topic, Scylla!

Like you, I am "old school".  I would much rather interact initially with someone in nearby chat.  If the chat is crowded, if it would be difficult to carry on a technical discussion, if we both want some privacy to speak more intimately...then it's time to switch to IM.

In clubs, I enjoy carrying on conversations on two levels.  On one level, we're in nearby chat, joking, riffing off comments from others...light banter.  In IM, we may be discussing the shortcomings of other patrons, or engaged in some steamy verbal foreplay.

I always try to use the communication channel that the other person prefers.  If they start off in IM, I'll respond there.  But I don't like it.  I have found it to be almost universally true that if a strange man approaches you initially in IM, he really only wants one thing.

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When people IM me in a public place, I respond through open chat, even ask them why IM instead of chat. Then after the first few interactions if they haven't gotten the clue I'll just move on.. They either continue in open or not. Most "gathering" places with dozens of people: All in IM trying to booty-call hookup with others all through IM. It's funny to watch and shout fire by proclaiming "Easier and faster to booty-call in open chat, people!" - which I've done a couple times.

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1 minute ago, Lindal Kidd said:

Like you, I am "old school".  I would much rather interact initially with someone in nearby chat.  If the chat is crowded, if it would be difficult to carry on a technical discussion, if we both want some privacy to speak more intimately...then it's time to switch to IM.

You make a really good point here, which is that the purpose or nature of the conversation is going to have a bearing on which tool you use to pursue it. I was thinking, I'll admit, mostly about general socializing. In instances where you are specifically looking for a hook-up, it might make more sense to go straight to IM -- if you are in a place where "hook-ups" are part of the expectation. But surely if you are looking to meet people for something more than pixel-bashing, you'll get a better sense of who they are, and whether you are likely to find them interesting, by watching them interact with a broader community?

6 minutes ago, Lindal Kidd said:

In clubs, I enjoy carrying on conversations on two levels.  On one level, we're in nearby chat, joking, riffing off comments from others...light banter.  In IM, we may be discussing the shortcomings of other patrons, or engaged in some steamy verbal foreplay.

Yes. This certainly used to be the way things most often worked.

It's weird -- in RL, I'd never give someone my cell number or Skype contact, or whatever, unless I already knew that they were someone I'd want to interact at that level of intimacy with. Yet in SL, we increasingly seem to do just that.

I wonder how much the influence of RL dating apps has to do with this?

8 minutes ago, Lindal Kidd said:

I have found it to be almost universally true that if a strange man approaches you initially in IM, he really only wants one thing.

I've had a few recent experiences where this wasn't true. But yes, overall, 90% of the time or more . . .

And that's fine, I suppose, so long as you don't mind me shutting you down immediately. If you are really interested in me -- as a person, not as a collection of textured mesh objects -- then interact with me first on a level that doesn't enforce an immediate and unnatural level of intimacy.

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2 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

When people IM me in a public place, I respond through open chat, even ask them why IM instead of chat.

That's an interesting approach which, I'll admit, I probably wouldn't take, because I'm by nature not really very confrontational. What I have done is answer the IM in very vague and nondescript terms, but then tried to open up a parallel and more interesting conversation in public.

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If it's in a club or someplace where there is an actual social event going on, I think it's up to the host or hostess to keep local chat alive. Throw out a topic, and if it's something interesting, I'll join in. I won't go into a silent club and be the one to try and drum up the chat, though.

I've also discovered in a few places, much to my chagrin, that everyone was speaking in local - on voice. I hate wearing a headset and despise local voice for the most part because... really, it's usually just an awful mess of people breathing too hard, or snorting, or someone's dog barking, or they're slurping a drink. 

If someone specifically wants to talk to me, though, I much prefer it in an IM. As a matter of fact, I rarely will even acknowledge someone I don't know trying to talk to me in local. I don't want anyone hearing my conversations. In RL, even in the most crowded and noisy bars, the conversations are between the individuals conversing and though some may hear the chatter, they actual words aren't meant for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to hear. 

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11 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

That's an interesting approach which, I'll admit, I probably wouldn't take, because I'm by nature not really very confrontational.

Oh, I never do it confrontationally. I simply carry on the conversation in chat - because, for me, it's easier to generally in-world-multitask (because I just tap the enter key to open chat, type chat, tap enter key - continue whatever I was doing with the mouse, etc.). I don't do that all the time, for example if I'm in one of those booty-call-IM-lottery beaches then I don't do that. LOL But, for example, when I was at some shopping event and hardly anyone there, some newbie asked me me a couple questions (get to know type) - and I responded in chat and we eventually chatted through chat as I cammed around and clickity on vendors and demos and whatnot.

As with each and every aspect of SL (and RL, for that matter) - it's all relative and contextually-sensed by activity and surroundings, etc.

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11 minutes ago, Beth Macbain said:

If it's in a club or someplace where there is an actual social event going on, I think it's up to the host or hostess to keep local chat alive. Throw out a topic, and if it's something interesting, I'll join in. I won't go into a silent club and be the one to try and drum up the chat, though.

My experience of places where the chat is dependent upon the effort of the host/hostess has not been great: usually (and it depends to some degree on the personality of the host/ess) that kind of chat is pretty stilted. I do occasionally try to get public chat going myself, and I sometimes succeed, but most often not. Most venues have developed their own cultures, and the ones that don't tend to feature a lot of public chat are pretty resistant, I find, to attempts to introduce it.

16 minutes ago, Beth Macbain said:

I've also discovered in a few places, much to my chagrin, that everyone was speaking in local - on voice. I hate wearing a headset and despise local voice for the most part because... really, it's usually just an awful mess of people breathing too hard, or snorting, or someone's dog barking, or they're slurping a drink.

Yes, ugh, I just stay away from that kind of place for all kinds of reasons. I don't find that voice actually opens up public discussion because, honestly, it's really poorly suited for it. Anything more than three speakers and it just becomes a pointless exercise in noise.

18 minutes ago, Beth Macbain said:

If someone specifically wants to talk to me, though, I much prefer it in an IM. As a matter of fact, I rarely will even acknowledge someone I don't know trying to talk to me in local. I don't want anyone hearing my conversations. In RL, even in the most crowded and noisy bars, the conversations are between the individuals conversing and though some may hear the chatter, they actual words aren't meant for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to hear.

The analogy of meeting someone at a bar is probably a pretty good one. Actually, one of the reasons why I have never liked bars for that purpose is because they are invariably too noisy to really have a good discussion in the first place, though. I do take your point, however.

I don't myself object to IM at all, as such: I use it more than public chat. But, personally, I'd rather get to know someone who isn't already at least an acquaintance first in a broader social context before going to that stage in a relationship. But that, of course, is just me.

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24 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

As with each and every aspect of SL (and RL, for that matter) - it's all relative and contextually-sensed by activity and surroundings, etc.

Yes, of course, absolutely: you're quite right.

But I am wondering if the "default" tools for communications haven't changed. To use an analogy: where once social venues in SL were a bit like a social media platform where you engaged in public, and went into DMs where necessary, it seems to me that a lot of places now are more like a 3D Tinder, with the broader community element now largely irrelevant.

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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If I am IMed I stay in IM and don't try to take it to public chat. If addressed in public chat I keep it public. When I want to approach someone I start in public chat. Also, I don't have usernames above people's heads so it's difficult to even begin an IM and if someone IMs me I have no idea where they are.

In crowded quiet areas I like to say "If this place gets any livelier, a funeral might break out!" That's Rodney Dangerfield. 

Edited by Bree Giffen
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5 minutes ago, CoffeeDujour said:

I have always vastly preferred local chat.

I do also, especially when more than one person participates and how conversations can meander all over the place. Even, sometimes, just listening in on chat can be a fascinating past time. But a dead-silent scene (because all are in IMs) feels like a mannequin-storage facility.

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6 minutes ago, CoffeeDujour said:

I have always vastly preferred local chat.

As do I. In part that's because I like the "community" element of SL so much. But, even when I was open to relationships (sexual and otherwise) in SL, I still preferred to get to know those whom I (*cough*) "dated" through public interactions first.

If I'm right, and there has been a sea change in how we socialize (generally) in SL, does that reflect a shift in how we do so in RL? Or merely a shift in the social function of SL?

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5 minutes ago, Bree Giffen said:

If I am IMed I stay in IM and don't try to take it to public chat. If addressed in public chat I keep it public. When I want to approach someone I start in public chat. Also, I don't have usernames above people's heads so it's difficult to even begin an IM.

This is my approach, generally. I almost never approach someone first through IM, in part, because I have a feeling that doing so sets up expectations about my intentions, at least with regard to men. If I assume that a man IMing me is probably interested in more than exchanging recipes, my guess is that they would assume the same about me were I to initiate a contact in IM.

7 minutes ago, Bree Giffen said:

In crowded quiet areas I like to say "If this place gets any livelier, a funeral might break out!" That's Rodney Dangerfield.

Yeah, I've said similar things in that situation.

Strangely enough, it doesn't tend to go over very well . . .

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10 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

But a dead-silent scene (because all are in IMs) feels like a mannequin-storage facility.

This is a perfect image. Fair warning: I am stealing it.

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24 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

I don't myself object to IM at all, as such: I use it more than public chat. But, personally, I'd rather get to know someone who isn't already at least an acquaintance first in a broader social context before going to that stage in a relationship. But that, of course, is just me.

It's interesting that you look at a private conversation as a relationship stage. I've never thought about it that way. To me, the IM is just a way to cut through the noise in the hypothetical bar to have a conversation. 

I can tell you what I do hate about this type of thing, though. Having a lovely conversation with someone, and getting the awkward out-of-the-blue friend request. I've grown accustomed to explaining why I refuse them, and most take it well, but it's still not necessary. Don't hit me with a friend request. One conversation does not a friend make. 

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7 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

This is a perfect image. Fair warning: I am stealing it.

mannequin-storage facility®©℗™℠

BUT, you are nice so you and everyone else can have a forever, perpetual-use license for free. Bahahahaha!

But I'm gonna have to reserve my alternate description: Westworld defunct-host dumpsite.

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1 minute ago, Beth Macbain said:

It's interesting that you look at a private conversation as a relationship stage. I've never thought about it that way. To me, the IM is just a way to cut through the noise in the hypothetical bar to have a conversation. 

Yes, that is an assumption that I make -- and maybe I tend to assume (incorrectly?) that others view it that way? Most often (and there have, as I say above, been exceptions), when I am IMed by a man, it does seem that that mode of communication signals a more specifically romantic or sexual interest, so to some degree, my assumption is based upon experience?

But, again, that may have a lot to do with where I hang out?

I very much like the idea that an IM need not necessarily signify an upping of the expectations, and a higher degree of intimacy. (And I agree about the friendship request -- maybe that's a sign that the person you are chatting to does see the IM as a "step forward"?) I just haven't found that most who approach me through IMs share that assumption with you.

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People who want to chat in local often seem to be under the mistaken impression that "It's so quiet in here" is a conversation opener.  Even the weather would have better results! 

Edited by cicelydawn
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3 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Yes, that is an assumption that I make -- and maybe I tend to assume (incorrectly?) that others view it that way? Most often (and there have, as I say above, been exceptions), when I am IMed by a man, it does seem that that mode of communication signals a more specifically romantic or sexual interest, so to some degree, my assumption is based upon experience?

But, again, that may have a lot to do with where I hang out?

I very much like the idea that an IM need not necessarily signify an upping of the expectations, and a higher degree of intimacy. (And I agree about the friendship request -- maybe that's a sign that the person you are chatting to does see the IM as a "step forward"?) I just haven't found that most who approach me through IMs share that assumption with you.

Ah, but just because they see it as a step forward doesn't mean that I do. To keep it to the real world bar analogy, a guy might come up to my table and say hello, and I might have a conversation with him, and he might think he's about to score, but I know he isn't. 

I have, up until Bellisseria, almost exclusively stayed strictly to A rated regions because I was in SL for those adult reasons, so, yeah, pretty much every IM was someone trying to get busy with me. I also made some really good friends from IMs that started off like that, but ended up just being buddies, and now that my SL world-view has gone through significant changes, the IMs I receive really are mostly just people saying hello. 

I'd be curious to hear other opinions on this just because I've never thought of an IM as anything other than a way to have a direct conversation with someone. I might be naively in the minority there!

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I'm comfortable talking either locally or in private message. I find that it's rather difficult to talk in local when I'm at a social event, specifically where musicians are playing, because of the amount of gesture spam occurring, so in that circumstance I much prefer talking in PM. I honestly believe gestures are the biggest deterrent to people enjoying conversations in local, which is a shame.

Edited by Blush Bravin
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4 minutes ago, Blush Bravin said:

I'm comfortable talking either locally or in private message. I find that it's rather difficult to talk in local when I'm at a social event, specifically where musicians are playing, because of the amount of gesture spam occurring, so in that circumstance I much prefer talking in PM. I honestly, believe gestures are the biggest deterrent to people enjoying conversations in local, which is a shame.

YES!

I hate gestures with the white hot energy of a billion fiery suns and they should be abolished. 

For some it's facelights, for some it's full-bright, for me it's gestures. They make me stabby. 

They ruin live music events, the ruin DJ music events, they ruin conversation, they ruin everything they touch. 

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I also prefer to get to know people in local chat, but I find a lot of people don’t follow local chat at all. It happens not infrequently that I’ll say something to a person in local chat and get no response at all. I’ve even encountered a forumite in the wild, said hello in local, and had the person walk right around my avatar. I am choosing to believe the person wasn’t looking at local... 

Anyway, the reason for my preference for local was stated by Scylla above. I don’t want my intentions misunderstood. 

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Definitely prefer local in general, I like it when everyone can talk just like they might in real life, dropping in and our of conversations. IMs don't bother me as per se, but they do bother me if I'm already chatting away in local and then someone in the same room goes like "hi how are you" in IMs, expecting me to pay attention to separate one on one conversation.

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I think the oft-seen "I don't usually IM first" is a direct and unforunate result of inaccurate assumptions about what it means to send or respond to IMs, especially in clubs.  So we end up with the SL equivalent of middle-school dances with people lined up opposite the dance floor not wanting to make a move. Having grown up in this culture of silence it never really occured to me that open chat could be an antidote of sorts. Ever been shouted at because you sent an innocent IM and then didn't want to go home with them after 15 minutes? I don't want to live my life based on that kind of negative experience!

To expand on my previous comment: people who don't often visit these kind of clubs may not realize we get a steady stream of "Gee it's quiet in here" types who generally leave five minutes later. And yet in these places conversations do happen. Shopping or sales are usually a good bet, everyone has an opinion there.

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