I do a lot of my writing and reading while alone in Second Life. One of the things I enjoy is the feeling of being on a beach or another quiet place while doing it. I just love tapping away on my keyboard, while hearing the sounds of the surf mixing with the calls of the birds.
This serene moment can be very easily interrupted – with all the subtlety of a scratched vinyl record – by being IMed without warning.
If it’s from a friend, or someone I know, I’m typically delighted. If I don’t know the sender however, I might be less welcoming.
The unsolicited IMs I receive typically come from males. Often, he will be out of my field of vision (or not anywhere near me, for that matter). Frequently, the message will be phrased as a compliment about my appearance – and very often limited to certain body parts. This happens to me pretty much every time I visit a public beach or dance venue in Second Life, or even when I’m stood somewhere at Basilique.
As a result of unwanted interruptions, like Ella writes in her post on this topic in The SL Naturist, I’ve also reduced my visits to public (and specifically nude) beaches – preferring to sit alone on my private beach instead – where at least I can stay somewhat invisible, through parcel privacy settings.
Note: First, from here on in, the “you” and “your” applies only if you are someone who uses these less than ideal approaches. If you don’t, don’t take it personally. Second, this is only opinion, not evidence-based suggestions – although what a great survey that’d be, eh?
There are three problems with your approach: First, your choice to use IM and not local chat. Second, your choice to do so while remaining out of my field of vision. Third, the obnoxiously and hopeless unoriginal content of your message that amounts to nothing but a waste of time for all concerned. In most cases, this applies regardless of place – be it a beach, a bar, a dance club, a town square, or anywhere else I go in Second Life.
Use local chat
Let’s talk about the difference between IM and local chat for a moment. For me, my IM is a private message space. I don’t IM anyone unless I have something personal, or important, to say or ask them. While I don’t terribly mind an IM from someone who I don’t yet know, I find it intrusive, when I realise (in very little time I should add) the real intent behind your private message, which might sound a bit like this:
You: “Hey, u want 2 go somewhere private 4 some dancing or fun?”
Me: “Wow, sure! Thanks for IMing me out of the blue with an invite for what sounds like an amazing time when I was so bored here doing absolutely nothing!”
Seriously, has an exchange like the one I suggest above ever happened unless it was in jest?
One of the problems with IM (and the internet in general for that matter) is that it gives you a false sense of personal license to say things you’re unlikely to say to someone face to face. At least in local, there is a degree of public accountability that might help your brain govern the reigns controlling your horny typing fingers. This is certainly not foolproof, but perhaps that one-second pause as you consider the public effects of your utterance in local chat, might just do the trick.
Granted, an IM is sometimes the only way one can cut through the clutter of local to get someone’s attention. If you’re going to use IM for your approach, then it had better be
- Literate, meaning free of spelling mistakes and grammar crimes – e.g. U is not an appropriate substitute for the pronoun “you”. Similarly, 2 and 4 is not a good stand in for the prepositions “to” and “for”. Not everyone cares about this, but people will rarely discount you for using good spelling and grammar, so why not play the percentages here?
- Original, meaning something considerably deeper than “hi” followed by minutes of deafening silence.
- Sensical. Please don’t assume that someone sitting alone is lonely or depressed. Please also don’t assume that they’d rather be with someone, or dancing, or somewhere other than where they’ve chosen to be.
- Non-sexual. Just because it’s Second Life doesn’t mean that everyone is ready and willing to become intimate at your immediate suggestion. Life is not like a pornographic movie, and neither is Second Life.
Still, even the most literate, original, sensical and non-sexual IM might still be intrusive.
Because an IM alerts me with a sound designed to get my attention, your unsolicited IM is like you walking up behind me, and poking my shoulder to get it. If you do that, your message had better matter.
When you do it from the other side of the sim, it’s like you’re hiding in the bushes, only poking your head up to throw a small pebble at the back of my head in the hopes I’ll respond.
There are solutions to this problem; none of them ideal. I could, for instance, mute my sound. Part of the point of being in Second Life while doing something else, however, is enjoying the sounds I hear. I could switch on DND, but then I might miss important IMs from my friends. I might switch on DND except for IMs from friends, but then I might miss an important IM from someone related to business issues about my region, or my other projects inworld. I might filter my IMs for blocked keyword phrases. That sounds fine on paper, but I have a feeling it’d be a pretty long and loathsome project typing every offensive keyword phrase that you may use in a lecherous pick up line.
I am guessing one of the reasons you do approach by IM is because you can thereby avoid the perceived humiliation of being ignored; or worse, risk my flat-out public rejection of your approach.
Using local chat, especially when others might near, shows confidence. A part of me sometimes thinks that you’d be embarrassed by your lack of smoothness if anyone else heard your approach in local chat; so, lucky me, you’ve chosen instead to privately whisper your proposal in my ear.
Perhaps another reason for IMing instead of using local chat is because I am seated outside of your local chat range, which brings me to the next issue.
Use your legs
After all my time as a resident, I still fail to understand the resistance to walking in Second Life. It’s not like it even burns calories. Instead of walking over, it is much more common for people to try their luck from over hundreds of metres away.
First off, It strikes me as lazy. It makes me think you are simply running a numbers game, IMing every vaguely feminine-sounding name on your Nearby list, in the hope that your textual sex missile hits a receptive bullseye.
Second, it’s creepy. It’s like getting a call on my mobile from an unknown number and hearing the person on the other end talk to me as if they see me. Imagine this happening in real-life:
“Hey” said the disembodied voice on the mobile, “you are so sexy.”
Just pondering it makes my skin crawl.
Far better, regardless of your intent, would have been to take the effort to walk nearby, then stop while standing at a reasonably safe distance and saying a simple “Hello” in local chat. Getting your IM from a distant and unseen location feels a bit like you’re observing me through the virtual equivalent of power-zoom binoculars. And no, I don’t like that.
Beyond the creepiness factor, when you zoom in on me from a far distance, you have a distinct advantage over me by seeing me without me seeing you. It may sound superficial, but I tend to like to see who is approaching me, just like I’d assume you like to see whom you approach. It’s only fair, right? And, if you’re hiding somewhere unseen because you assume your appearance might put me off, then perhaps it’s time to stop band-aiding the problem and upgrade your avatar’s appearance.
Lastly, walking over makes you stand out. Most people don’t seem to bother, so you’re already likely to get noticed which will make your approach all that much more intriguing.
Use your brain
Finally, let’s talk about your approach.
Don’t use a cheesy pick up line you found somewhere on the internet or in some book. The chances of me not being to detect it within a heartbeat of its utterance is next to nil. Even if I don’t immediately recognise it, if it sounds canned, it probably is.
Do not, under any circumstances in the known universe, use any of these:
If you’re going to start your approach with a simple “Hello”, then at least have the foresight to have your next line ready. Here’s one suggestion that is unlikely to fail:
“I’d like to chat, if you’d care to join me.”
Simple. Direct. Honest. You get the picture. Ask permission to chat, without sounding needy. Which means, of course, the onus is on you to accept my response for what it is and not get all snotty if it’s not what you want to hear. If I do want to chat, what else might you say? Here are some suggestions:
- The research approach: “I’m curious about what women like to do on dates in Second Life, can you help me out?”
- The ‘I need help’ approach: “I’m wondering, do you know what’s fun to do on this sim?”
- The opinion opener: “I’d like to ask your opinion on something, what do you think of this hairstyle on me?”
Now you’re asking for my help. Why is this useful? First, people – in general – like it when you ask them what they think, as opposed to hearing all about what you think. Most people don’t really care about what you think until they feel they can trust your opinion anyway, which might develop over the course of a conversation. Second, asking someone’s opinion about something makes them think you are interested in what they have to say, and trust them to give you good advice. Third, you might actually learn something.
From here, I’m afraid it’s up to you. I’d bet the farm, however, that you find first approaches more challenging than the conversations that might follow. Most people ease into things quite naturally, allowing the conversation to flow where it will organically lead.
One last thing, don’t IM me a generic pick up line that you have also sent my friend sitting next to me. Believe it or not, we compare notes.