I grew up in a household where, every time the phone rang, my dad bellowed with a fury that only increased in magnitude with the call's proximity to the sacred dinner hour, "Who could that be?" And if someone knocked on the door unannounced—our reaction resembled that of the Dillinger gang with the Feds at the door.
We Murrays liked people all right. But we liked our boundaries too. And I still do.
A friend of mine lives in the neighborhood, and his home office is in the front of his house on the second floor, and sometimes when I'm out jogging, I stop in front of his place and pick up a pebble and toss it at his window.
Now this is a particularly jocular chap, at any moment's notice ready for a phone call or a cocktail. But he's always genuinely annoyed when I chuck the pebbles. How can I tell? He throws up the window and yells, "Stop that!"
Nine times out of 10, that's how it feels to me to get an IM* or one of those little pings on Facebook. Even if it comes from somebody I'm glad to hear from and even if it brings news I'm glad to get—it's a basketball in the face, it's "boo!" around a corner, it's a pebble on my window pane.
If you had a bowl full of pebbles and a really strong and accurate arm, would you occasionally chuck one of those pebbles at the window of a friend, in California, not knowing whether or not he or she is in the middle of a thought—or worse?
I don't think you would.
I'd go on about this, but I just had a random thought and need to IM my client about it.
Meanwhile, I wonder if you'll weigh in: Do you resent the Ping even when you love the Pinger?
*I'm hooked up to my clients at McMurry on IM, and I've come to accept IM pings as intra-office banter necessary for spontaneous, continuous work flow. But I'm super vigilant about letting my workmates know when I'm not available, often posting customized out-of-the-office status: The factual "Out to lunch" … the whimsical "On the make," the figurative "Making it rain," the literary "Tilting at windmills" or the mildly truculent, "Away."