Miss Ophelia's Metaverse Manners: On Pushy Shoppers, Serious Partners, and Friends Who Can't Wait to Say Hi
This week, three readers ask three questions about three kinds of pushiness in the metaverse:
If I bump into someone in a store, do I have to apologize even if they weren't rezzed yet?
The answer to this question scales somewhat, depending on just how crowded the area is. If the sim is nearly packed and everyone is shoehorned into a relatively small (and laggy) space, you should expect to bump into someone, and to be bumped into. Apologizing and excusing yourself in that scenario can take more time and effort than it's really worth, especially since everyone else is in the same cramped boat. If, however, there are only a couple of people around, and there's more room for you to navigate, there's much less of an excuse for bodychecking another avatar. In that case, even if you walk into them before they've rezzed on your screen, or you coast into them because of lag, it's appropriate to apologize. You don't need to say anything dramatic, just a quick "Sorry" will do.
The other side of this question: Should you expect (or demand) an apology if someone walks into you?
The answer is quite simply no, unless they seem to be deliberately harassing you. If it's a simple bump, remember that you may still be invisible to them, or they may be having technical issues. There's no way to know. Because of all the technological impediments to fluid and precise movement, and the fact that an avatar is not a physical body that can be hurt, it's unfair to apply the same expectations of personal space to SL as we would have in real life. It's a civil courtesy in both worlds to apologize, but you shouldn't necessarily feel as entitled to one as you would if someone physically collided with you on the street.
Dear Iris, when I log into SL and hear the familiar *ping* of an IM before I've even rezzed on-screen, it seriously irks me. Am I being too sensitive toward the notorious IM Pounce?
Unfortunately, the SL client really facilitates "the IM Pounce", as it lets anyone on your Friends list click on the little alert which indicates you've logged on, and IM you immediately. What most people don't realize is this: The little notification that you're online actually comes a few seconds before you're fully connected to SL, leading to the frustrating ping of someone IMing you before you can even see yourself. As annoying as it is, it's important to keep your IM-ing friend's perspective in mind: Perhaps they're just a little overenthusiastic to see you after a long absence, or they have some exciting news, and in cases like that, it's best to endure it until they calm down. However, if this friend is pouncing you day in day out and week after week, that can feel uncomfortable and your irritation is justified. Approach the subject gently with them and ask that they give you a little time to get settled after logging in before IMing you.
If it's more than a few friends pouncing on you, you may want to resign yourself to your fate, Casanova. Go get a drink or stretch your legs while you're logging in-- give yourself a break from the pinging, and give your fanclub a few minutes to cool off.
What should I do if my SL partner is taking our SL relationship more seriously than I do?
The easiest solution is to ignore the problem, but it's also the worst. You should always be honest with your SL partner/girlfriend/boyfriend about the limits of the relationship. In any relationship, whether it's in a real or a virtual space, both parties should be completely honest about their intentions. This is particularly important in virtual relationships because it is tremendously easy to be deceitful. Ultimately, if you have to hide something from your partner, you must know that it's wrong. It's true that your partner may not want to be with you after you tell them the truth, but it's better to end the relationship diplomatically so you can both find what you really want elsewhere, than to put yourself and your partner through the more painful and drawn-out alternative. There's always the chance that they'll want to continue the relationship anyway, but they won't have the same unrealistic expectations that they may have had before.
Do you have your own virtual world etiquette quandary? Email me at ophelia.iris [at] gmail [dot] com, or submit anonymously to the Metaverse Manners Formspring. Be sure to include a pseudonym (i.e. "WTF from the Welcome Area") so you know when I'm addressing your query!