Monday, June 15, 2009

When she only wants to Chat, Part 3

As I've been saying in previous posts, I've been carrying on a leisurely long-distance relationship with someone for about 3 months now, and we communicate almost entirely by instant message (GTalk). We chat. A lot. Like, hours every night, without fail.

This particular person (whom I care for very much now) is 600+ miles away and simply prefers IM to phone conversation. At first I thought that was strange. Why chat when you can talk? My fingers get tired of typing after a while.

But you know what? After a few months of doing this (and after seeing her in person a few times and talking on the phone with her maybe half a dozen times this past month), I've come to see that chat has a few things in its favor that yapping on the phone does not.

It's easy to blurt things out of your mouth when you're being free and easy and relaxed with someone, and that, frankly, is dangerous if you're a guy. I speak without thinking all the time. It's instinctive. I like to free-associate and say what I think, spontaneously. As a result, I often put my foot so far into my mouth that it's hanging out my ass. That's much harder to do when you have to type a message on a keyboard, then hit Send.

I'm a pretty fast typist (in short bursts), but still, it takes a while to type a message, even a short one. I can speak it much faster than I can type it. But that's a good thing, the fact that typing slows you down is a good thing. Because while you're typing, you get to think about what you're saying. You get to choose between a choice of synonyms for something, fine-tuning the nuance of whatever you were going to say, with much better precision than if you blurted it out. You get to revise, edit, proofread. By the time you're ready to hit Send, you've had much more of a chance to think about what you're saying than if you were on the phone blurting something out spontaneously. Sure, we're only talking milliseconds here, in some cases. But you know what I've found out? Milliseconds can be the difference between sounding like a complete f*cking jackass and maintaining your deceptively gentlemanly online persona.

If you're wise, you'll consciously slow it down -- type even slower than usual . And always keep in mind that you can backspace before hitting Send. Your mouth is send-only, there is no Backspace.

The other thing that's good about chat is this thing called the chat log. Chat logs are handy, because if you have a really good night of chat (a good conversation) you can go back and re-live the good parts by reading the transcript. By the same token, if you had a fight, you can go back and find out who said what; you have a forensic tool for figuring out what went wrong.

Chat logs, I've found, are also great for settling arguments. If your partner says "You never told me you were planning to play poker at Jimmy's house tomorrow night!", you can whip out the chat log and say "I beg your pardon, it's right here in the chat log for November 19 at 8:38 pm. Refer to line 449."

And actually, there's less room for misunderstanding in an IM conversation than in a phone conversation. Again, it's because you're choosing words and writing them down (typing them) when you use IM. With voice, you use a different vocabulary -- the colloquialisms of everyday spoken language -- and (have you ever noticed this?) the terms of everyday speech tend to be overloaded, semantically, much more so than the words you choose when you write (type) something. The precision of a typed message trumps the fuzziness of spoken language, in my experience. It goes a long way toward avoiding misunderstanding.

But of course, there'll still be misunderstandings -- that goes without saying. Words can always get you in trouble, no matter what the mode of delivery.

I guess my bottom line here is: Don't minimize the potential benefits of chat. Especially when you're early in a relationship and you haven't learned each other's "lingo" and want to avoid misunderstandings. There's something to be said (silently) for Chat.


  1. I can't say I agree witha relationship that is built on chat logs an time to plot out what you want to say to that person. what happens when you live with that person an your chat logs an time to pause are no longer in use. To much chat gives people time to pretened what they want to be.. Not what they really are. Love isn't meant to processed or feeling the need to shove what somone says in thier face if they make a mistake. If every time I talked with somone they told me to refer to line what ever an shove what I said back at me I woudl lose intrest fast.

  2. This tele-phone thing exists in that shadowy valley somewhere between the sharp percision of the written word and the rich meanings of face to face contact. I despise it. Its just not natural. I'll do just about anything to keep from having to use it. Perhaps its a condition of sorts. Tele-phobes of the world unite.