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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Too Much G-Chat Can Hurt Your Relationship

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge DearAnnaWeb.jpeg

Let me preface this by saying that the "relationship" I'll refer to is f*ed up in it's own right -- a kind of "friends with benefits" situation I've somehow ended up in, where both parties are afraid to commit to one another, but can't help but sleep together. (SF dating can be so screwed up.) Anyway, we often chat online all day during work, and we like to tease and play-fight. But the other night, I wasn't sure if we were teasing each other or actually fighting. All I know is, I came out of it feeling a little upset and a lotta confused. (I was also a little drunk.)

It got me to thinking about how much technology muddles our communication and perception of situations that might in fact be meaningful. In my case, I think it's a sign that I'm getting too attached to an impossible situation and probably need to get out, but I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time to people. A "G-Chat ruined my relationship!" thing. Does it?

~G-Chatty Cathy

G-Chat was my favorite distraction when I had an office job. It's perfect for a quick diversion, sound off, or sharing videos of Nicolas Cage losing his shit. 


You know what it's terrible for, though? New or budding relationships. G-Chat takes away conversational nuance. So does text messaging, as we've discussed. If you don't know someone well (and sometimes, even if you do), it's easy to misinterpret sentiments, jokes, and pretty much every human emotion aside from:

FRUSTRATION!

Flirtation ;)

EXCITEMENT!!! (differentiated from frustration only by context and the amount of punctuation)

and, INDIGNATION!?

Basically, all-caps is the only way to express emotion in G-Chat. G-Chat also doesn't have an easily definable endpoint, unlike some other electronic communications. Why? Because most people are online all day and don't log out of G-Chat until they go home. Sure, sometimes you have to run to a meeting, or, like, actually work, but for the majority of the time, that little box is always there, staring at you, begging to be filled with something -- a colorful rant about your co-worker's creepy toe shoes, a detailed play-by-play about your afternoon Blue Bottle latte, or, if you're me, "Look at this weird sex thing I just got invited to."

Because we have only a smattering of emoticons and animated poop to guide us, our minds yearn to connect the green dots with overanalysis and misinterpretation. G-Chat is kind of like therapy if you had paid for it with a Groupon. "When I recommended pho for dinner Friday, was his 'pho sho' response in earnest? Or was he just humoring me? And if so, was it literally and/or figuratively?" We end up bringing in third- and fourth-party friends (also on G-Chat, obvs) to help us figure out what he meant "when he said I was mercurial." These added and often conflicting friend opinions merely confuse everything further until all previous LOLs seem forced, and those "brb"s (be right back) seem like a digital smiting.

The same overlogic applies to fights. Fights on G-Chat are like fights with lesbians: THEY NEVER END (frustration). And the more time you spend trying to clarify and explain and make amends, the further you get mired in the vortex until eventually you're crying in your cubicle and you have to lie when your boss walks by and say it was because you just read a Dear Sugar column.

​All this is to say, spend less time on G-Chat, and more time chatting with your dude in the flesh. If you can't log out, then make yourself invisible for large chunks of the day. Not only will you be far more productive, but your booty calls will also be that much more bootyfull.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com. 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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Anna Pulley

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