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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I.M. Watching You

When I signed up for DSL a few years ago, the installation disk put Instant Messenger on my computer. Since then, I've used it to keep in contact with my wife during the day. We exchange meaningful conversations like:

PT: I think I poisoned myself with that old bread
Mrs. B: Serves you right
PT: I think I might die
Mrs. B: The good times are over

Or we use it to discuss medical matters (she's a nurse at a clinic where I volunteer):

Mrs. B: I think this student has strep. should I do a rapid test?
PT: whatever

Now that Fudge is in NY, I've found it to be an excellent way to keep up with her:

Fudge: ho abba
PT: Hey Pewo
Fudge: My roommates just went to a club and stayed out all night, but I decided to stay in and go to a nursing home instead
PT: Who is this really?

And I also have my other kids on my buddy list, so I can send them messages when they are at home on vacation:

PT: Larry, get off the computer and fold THAT LAUNDRY!!

Finally, I put my Israeli cousin Eli, who stayed with us last month, on my list too, so he sends me deep messages about what's going on in Israel:

PT: What do you think of the disengagement?
Eli: It's stupid
PT: Cool, thanks for the update

I've tried to avoid adding more names, because I already have windows popping up at me every few minutes and it makes it very difficult to work. However, I upgraded the Messenger last week, and as part of the process it scanned my email contacts and offered to add them. I reluctantly added a few names. In particular, there's a blogging buddy of mine with whom I've become relatively close and usually exchange a few emails a day (he can out himself in the comments if he wishes).

Now, this last addition has yielded some interesting side effects. Aside from the fact that we can now interrupt each other's work even more than before, I now seem to be able to 'spy' on him. I can tell when he gets to work. He can tell when I leave. It's a little freaky.

I'm trying to avoid clicking on him just to say hi. I'm sure he's got more important things to do, but I know he'd be polite and respond anyway. I have another friend to whom I haven't spoken in about 18 years who added me to his buddy list. I see him up there every day. So far, no contact. It's like walking into a room filled with people you know, each huddled over his or her desk working, and nobody is acknowledging that the others are there.

I think I've taken anti-social to a whole new level.


Ralphie said...

Be sure to set your IM to allow messages only from those already on your buddy list. Otherwise you're likely to get some spim (IM spam) that would make Howard Stern blush.

torontopearl said...

I had IM for a while -- at work -- and like you said, people knew when I was on the computer, off the computer... It felt as if Big Brother was watching all the way.

It proved rather effective with a distant cousin in Australia who had discovered me over the Internet. She would just "pop in" with IM to say hi at the start of her day, just before she was going to take a walk on Bondi Beach, after dropping her daughter to school. I, on the other hand, was just packing up to leave work and start my evening.

IM works wonders for instant gratification. Unfortunately, though, not all people whom I'd hoped to link to with IM had the capacity with their computers. And unfortunately, as well, for someone rather detail-oriented and verbose like me, the capacity for a message is rather limited, so I had to learn to talk in "shorthand", no easy feat for me!

fudge said...

abba, if there's anyone who can do it, you can. G-d speed.

MC Aryeh said...

I am actually thinking of disabling my IM, as it takes up increasingly more of my day. Of course, if I had the kind of fun conversations you do I would reconsider...

Doctor Bean said...

It's me. I'm outing myself.

I'm the goon you invited to download Yahoo Messenger.

It's very funny, because the "antisocial" thing is exactly what I was thinking.

All day your icon stared at me, and I thought:

"I don't have anything that important to say, and PT is probably seeing patients or dealing with Fudge and he's got a lot on his plate, so I should just leave him alone. He can IM me if he wants. … Hmmm… He's not IMing me. But that's probably because he's busy. I'm busy too. I hope he doesn't think I'm being unfriendly because I'm not IMing him. I'd be happy to IM him if he wasn't so busy. And besides IMs are so intrusive. Email is better. I'll probably just email. He probably thinks I'm not being friendly because I haven't emailed. Oh, look. He just left work. Oh, well. Maybe he'll email me before I get into work this morning."

Dating ball-and-chain was less complicated.

Jack's Shack said...

You docs are so wacky. You ought to exchange good lines to use on the drug reps or at least find some way to incorporate them into the IM fun.

zahava said...

[scratches head wondering why they all haven't used MY tactic....]

When I sign on to AOL IM, I sign in not as "available," but as "i've stepped away." 90 percent of the time that I am on the computer, I am actually working. BUT, being so far from family and good friends makes IM a GREAT and FREE way to stay in touch. If I really am too busy, I don't initiate a conversation when I see someone sign on who I would otherwise like to speak with -- if they PING me, and I'm really busy, I answer that I am online, but engaged in work.

It's every bit as obnoxious as folks who use their answering machines to screen phone calls, but I must say... IT WORKS! ;-)

Mirty said...

We use IM at work for actual work-related communication. (How totally weird!) It's really good for stuff like that --



Agent Oldfart's on phone


says he can't get to website - i've done my 10 min, XFER him to u


PsychoToddler said...

Ralphie: I know. As a condition of adding Dr. Bean to my list, he made me promise not to send him naked pictures of me.

TP: I think it's cool the Eli can IM me from Israel about an episode of Battlestar Galactica.

fudge: Pushing the boundaries of anti-social behaviour since 1991

MCAryeh: If it would help, I'll have my kids send you stupid comments all day long.

Doctor Bean: My sentiments exactly. Just switch the PT for Dr. Bean in your comment and that's what I was thinking.

I knew there was a reason I added you.

Jack: What do you think we IM about?

Zahava: That's so crazy it just might work!

Mirty: pretty much how my medical consultations with my wife go:

that crazy girl is back

give her some thorazine

we don't have any of that

then hit her on the head with a big hammer

Jack's Shack said...

Jack: What do you think we IM about?

I imagine that is something like this:

PT: Did you see that post on Treppenwitz today?
DB: Ya.
PT: What did you think?
DB: Dunno, what did you think?
45 minute pause
PT: Played on the XBOX for a while last night.
DB: Me too.
Lunch break
PT: The guy from Merck was here, won't stop bothering me about their VIOXX replacement. What was his name?
35 minute pause
DB: Got to finish the last of the laser surgery for B&C back later.
PT: Ok

Essie said...

Whenever I don't have time to IM someone I feel like I just want to wave Hi as if we're in a crowded room together but not going over to talk to each other.

Wickwire said...

You social butterfly you. I ended the whole I.M. thing after three months. X put several annoying people on our list so everytime anyone logged on, two or three people would automatically pop up with, "HI, how are you?" or "Hello, what you doing?" It can be good for family though.

torontopearl said...

I absolutely guessed that Dr. Bean was the mystery guy at the other end of your IM tactics.

You are like two sides of the same coin. (very much a compliment!)

I think Jack "captured" it just about right with his imaginary IM scenario between the two of you.

Doctor Bean said...

Jack: hillarious and accurate. we should just have you keep up both sides of our conversation. It would sure save us a lot of time.

PsychoToddler said...

It's close but our conversations are much filthier.

Shira Salamone said...

"zahava said...
It's every bit as obnoxious as folks who use their answering machines to screen phone calls, but I must say... IT WORKS! ;-)"

Guilty as charged. We tried two different caller-ID boxes, but neither worked properly. So we finally gave up and went back to screening all our calls with the good old-fashioned answering machine.

Ahem--what were we supposed to be talking about? Oh, yes--Instant Messaging. Our Favorite Physics Major *hates* it when I IM him. But IMing has the desired effect anyway--invariably, when I'm about two minutes into an IM conversation with him, the phone will ring and it'll be him calling. He says phone calls are faster, and that IMingit takes too much time away from his homework.

Speaking of phones and college students, cell phones are another wonderful piece of modern technology. Most of the calls we get from our son are made when he's not in his room and is nowhere near a phone booth, when he's in between doing other things--walking around the campus, waiting to see a prof, on the shuttle bus going back to his room. If he didn't have a cell phone, we'd never hear from him.

Shira Salamone said...

"our conversations are much filthier." And you were saying just a few posts back that you keep your language squeaky-clean --except when doing home repairs or teaching your children to drive. Tsk, tsk. :)

Jack's Shack said...

It's close but our conversations are much filthier.

I am tempted to try and recreate one of those, but I am short on impacted bowel humor tonight.

Eli said...

PT: for the record IM, snooping is a standard 'social engineering strategy among hackers.
If I can convince you to let me into you IM buddy list I now know when your at work and when not, which can be very useful.
(for the criminally inclined: google for social engineering)
Thats why I'm olways away.
That and the fact my boss, and his boss, are on my IM list...

PsychoToddler said...

Shira: Mrs. B has been trying to navigate the maze of NYC cell phone plans. It's next to impossible to understand. Unlimited anytime nightime rollover minutes...

AFAICT (as far as I can tell) they all lead to the same outcome: The Wescrewyou plan

BTW our language isn't filty, it's the discussion that's filthy.

Jack: Not from what I've been reading on your blog.

Eli: the only time i've seen you sign off is when you've rebooted your computer

Eli said...

on IM I'm allways online
on skype I'm allways away
and now you know why

Neil said...

Have you learnt all the lingo that kids use nowadays? I get totally confused when I get responses like LOLSHMHH (laughing out loud so much my head hurts)

PsychoToddler said...


(So glad you explained that to me because I'm a complete moron)

fudge said...

eli: you know why i think you are so hysterical? i think you could overthrow our entire government during your lunch break.

(do you get a lunch break?)

Eli said...

@#$%! now I have to find somthing else to do in my lunch break!

Did you actualy google for social engineering?
I have seen it in action, its much simpler then you realize.
Go have some fun and maybe you will be enlightened.

Eli said...

One more thing Fudge:
I get a lunch break - when it breaks I go for lunch.

parcequilfaut said...

I have AIM and Yahoo. I only keep the latter so that I can talk to my sister-in-law allllll day when she is at work. In my living room, I know when she is smoking a cigarette and cleaning the kitchen. It's weird.

My best friend from high school keeps her AIM on all day when she's at work because they use it for interoffice, so we have some hilarious/ridiculous chats that, generally, start with one of us IMing "arrgh".

Two of my friends and I IM entirely in French, even though we're all from the same part of Tennessee.

We use it as kind of a replacement for the phone, I guess, since most of my friends have cell phones with long distance numbers or oppressively low numbers of minutes. I miss it more than my phone, at present while I'm away from Internet, etc.

I solve the "people knowing when I'm around" problem by always leaving my AIM on, without an away message.

I do, however, refuse to have it on any mobile device. That's just too much. The last good show I went to was Sound Tribe Sector 9 at the Cannery Ballroom, and some dude was text messaging in the floor for three hours while people just kind of danced around him. I don't get that.