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."
Robert J Holland, ABC says
I think there should be a new technology for people like you: Anti-Social Media.
The solution you suggest is the one I was going to propose. If you don’t want IMs or FB “pings,” use the tools that allow you to be there invisibly or to notify others that you’re unavailable. Otherwise, you’re fair game.
David Murray says
I know, Robert. (And along these lines, I’ve also come up with social media network just to keep track of drinking buddies: “Shitfacebook.”)
I don’t use these self-defense tools because I don’t take time to find out what they are. Eventually, a young person will come to my house and do it for me.
Until then, I wait patiently, and publicly muse about what why I hate to be pinged–and what kind of person actually does!
I love it all. I hate it all. Technology is to my neurouses as a gentleman caller is to his lover’s ample breasts. Technology nourished and ruined me. Made it possible to hide in my room and connect to the world through a computer screen. Turned me into goddamn 21st century Miss Havisham. Here. Have a piece of fucking cake.
David Murray says
Suzanne, though I can’t get fully on board with your gentleman-caller analogy, but that’s how I feel. Me and communication technology: Sid & Nancy.
Ok, Murray. Your curmudgeonly side is influencing your choice of communication vehicles — and that’s OK. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us. I LOVE IM. Why bother with long email chains when you can simply and easily IM someone?
IM is also great when you’re on phone conferences and you need another channel to quickly get in touch with someone.
I think of all this “new” media in the same way I think of “old” media. I communicate wtih the audience in the way I can get the audience to listen. So if you don’t like IM, I wouldn’t use it with you. But lots of other people love it — which makes it an effective channel.
David Murray says
Now, wait a minute, Amy. I know you’re a careful and considerate communicator, but there actually is an answer to your question: “Why bother with long e-mail chains when you can simply and easily IM someone?”
The answer is, “So the person can respond to you when he or she is ready to deal with your issue.”
There are many times when IM is the most efficient for everyone involved. I just think we ought to be ever aware that there are times when it breaks concentration and harms productivity.
(One other IM problem I have is a sense of always being too slow, and for two utterly vain reasons: 1. i refuse to rite hors-shit gramer. 2. I like to be witty and otherwise verbally smooth. Both of which mean I’m always playing catchup to those who use IM as it’s intended: to blab info fast. IM makes me pit out.)
Kate Zimmerman says
Here’s how out of it I am — I don’t even know what IM is. What the f—?
Jennifer Wah says
Okay, I stewed for the day, and still have my “grr” on, so here’s the thing:
When the phone rang at dinnertime, did your dad answer it? Or just bellow? Is this your bellow? ‘Cause if it is, then I’m all over you on this. YOU HAVE OPTIONS!
#1, and most important: You came to this playground, buddy. Heck, you even invited me (or I, you – can’t recall) to play in the sandbox called Facebook, where we saw the pictures each other drew, and the roads we built and vroom-vroomed along. Because of that, when we met in real life (not counting that Previous Incident), we were already friends. A drink at a bar just sealed it.
b), and here is the raising of the ire: So don’t now tell me that I can only play in the sandbox with you on Tuesday afternoons from 1.15 – 1.45, and I can only ever use the yellow shovel. You can play then, but I will damn well play whenever I want. I am IN this sandbox. If you show up when I do, great – our friendship will deepen. But if you only play by your rules, chances are, it will not.
iii. I like to ping and be pinged. If I’m busy, I’ll ignore you, not bellow at you. Just like I let the phone go to voicemail during dinner. And I’ll assume – if it’s important in any way – that you’ll find one of many avenues to reach me. How cool that we have so many choices. Know your audience, right?
In the meantime, go invisible on FB if that improves your productivity. Put the cover on the sandbox. Oh, and get an answering machine, too. Figure out how to make the tool work for you, I say….
The way it works for me is that it connects me with friends, so that when I spontaneously want to share a cool idea with a fellow wordsmith, or just say “hey, I was thinking of you…” and I see your green light, I am reminded we are in this sandbox together.
David Murray says
OK, this is the meanest comment I’ve ever gotten from a Canadian. (Okay, Ridley, a Western Canadian.)
First, Jennifer, we ought to at least explain to everyone at least that we are new friends, having made an enthusiastic connection as co-panelists at RonCon 2010.
And that in the wake of RonCon, you pinged me a couple of times on Facebook, literally greeting me by saying, “Ping!”
Once I responded and we had a yak, and then the second time I didn’t, for the usual reason: I had a hundred windows open and Facebook was in the back, and my sound was turned off so I can check e-mail on conference calls.
And then you pinged me again a few hours later and wrote, “Are you ignoring me?”
And I need to explain to YOU that those incidents were not the secret subject of the above post, only the obvious inspiration for it. The post is an attempt to answer the question of the Universal Unanswered Pinger: “Are you ignoring me?”
Here’s the truth, as I’ve explained it on Facebook: Until all this, I didn’t know how to make myself unavailable on Facebook. Not that I couldn’t have figured it out–I just hadn’t taken the time. I wasn’t truly enraged at you or anyone else for “pinging” me.
As you saw in the post, I took care to explain my behavior as being connected to a slightly weird attitude toward intrusions in my childhood home. And I admitted that I engage in ping-like behavior myself.
In the meantime, I’ve figured out how to shut off my Facebook chat feature, forever. (I think.)
On a parallel Facebook discussion, I explained my process: “First, scream at the world about my problem. Then, figure out how to solve it. Hey, I’m a writer.”
But then, so are you. So I was surprised to hear that you saw the above post as an affront, rather than an attempt to start a conversation—in my sandbox, by my rules.
Wah, I like your sandbox, and I love you. I just don’t like IMing. Can’t we still have our thing if we ain’t got the ping?
Jennifer Wah says
They must have dialed down the meanness in the air up here in Western Canada this morning, Mr. Murray, “because I got you, and you got me, and that’s what gives a hoot in hell about us.”
So yes, you clever boy, we can have our thing.
Funny, though, I had to re-read a sentence up above; I’ve always thought of this as one big sandbox, not yours or mine…
David Murray says
I’ll let a couple of other platonic lovers have the final ping on our crazy-go-kooky kind of fling:
David Murray!! If you don’t want to answer an IM the second it comes across YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Two things will happen if you don’t: 1) people will FIGURE OUT that you’re not there/not answering and will reach out to you some other way to get whatever they need in them moment. 2) People will learn, over time and through many ignored IMs, that Murray never answers his IMs, so you have to reach him SOME OTHER WAY — IM doesn’t work for Murray.
As you point out, IM works just like the phone. It rings and you don’t have to answer. Example: Everyone knows I never check the VM on my cell, so don’t leave me a message there…go ahead and call my home number.
The moral: Just because you have all these ways of reaching someone doesn’t mean that person has to agree to be reached. Remember your Jane Austen! It’s the modern-day equivalent of “so sorry, madam isn’t home at the moment” when we all know perfectly well she’s upstairs but doesn’t wish to receive guests.
And btw, I can’t imagine you EVER being ungrammatical or anything less than COMPLETELY witty and at all times — on IM or by any other channel.
Your fan on the Eastern Seaboard,
David Murray says
Look, people, I’m filled with anxiety at all times about not wanting to let people down and letting them down includes not being there right when they want me.
Gotta run. Off to the shrink-ola ….