10 points in Presence

When I used to play the RPG Vampire the Masquerade in both tabletop and LARP forms, there was a vampiric ability called Presence. It allowed the user to influence the emotions and actions of others. In terms of social networking, it might have been nicknamed the drama power. To this day, I still believe it actually exists on LiveJournal. Probably reaching back to the date when “friend” overcame “befriend” as the popular verb form and it’s opposite “unfriend” gained even more use in day to day language.

Web 2.0/Social Networking provides us a different type of Presence though, the ability to appear omnipresent in a way. But it can also send very confusing signals about one’s activities, location, online attention span, etc. I signed up for ping.fm which is a service that can send a status message, microblog (140 characters) or an actual blog post to many different services. Effectively it updates your status/messages on all services at once. I still can’t tell whether this is a good thing or just annoying, since if people are following you on those many services, they’re pretty much getting spammed when you send a multi-update, especially those using SMS notifications.

Other services strive to act as the lighthouse in the Marvel title Excalibur which exists simultaneously across the multiverse. They will update your actual profile information across multiple services so that you remain the same on facebook, myspace, hi5, etc. While I think that would be a great way to keep your online social (friendly) and networking (work-related) profiles in line, I usually keep most of mine pared down to the basics anyway.

The most popular of them all, I think, are the multi-account instant messenger clients like Adium (my fave at home) and meebo (my fave at work). I think these are great. One application, all your chat buddies, click a button and your away/present status is set for all services.

Unfortunately… these apps make it all too easy to abuse what might be considered online etiquette? People log onto an IM client and are always marked “away” which is like the real world equivalent of getting into work early and shutting your office door. No one knows if you’re really there and screening or if you’re completely not there. Better yet is the “idle” status which lets people know you were there, but you’ve gone off to tend to something more important… in some cases for up to 3 days at a stretch. I’ve recently decided that if someone is always away, they’re effectively “offline” to me, so no whining why don’t I ever send you a message, ok?

But what’s truly fun is when the IM “away” status conflicts with one’s other social network status messages.

Recently I was chatting with this guy, let’s call him Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo, on OkCupid. It’s a “dating” site, which seems more a place for people to sit around and fill out quizzes all day on a site that isn’t Facebook. He seemed nice, so we started using AOL instant messenger. He asked me to add him on Facebook, I did. He asked me if I wanted to go out this past week. I was so inclined, so he figured we’d naturally chat again during the week and make plans.

Now since that one IM session, he was marked away 100% of the time. So I left one message, the IM equivalent of voice mail, and figured he’d get back to me. Nothing. But at the same time, his Facebook status is changing, he’s uploading photos, playing with applications and making updates to twitter. So contrary to his IM status, he’s not “away” or “idle”, he’s either ignoring me or ignorant. Neither of which really bugs me, aside from how stupid it looks.

Didn’t expect this entry to devolve into a dating rant, did ya? πŸ˜‰

I’m sure that this is the kind of thing that causes social networking drama in those much younger than me, but for me it’s just kinda dumb. In the real world this would be like giving someone your phone number, home and work address and access to CCTV monitors tracking your movements right after saying, “I’ll call you,” when you have no intention of doing so. I’d much rather you do this:

Isn’t it just easier in the long run? This just gives me a lesson in continuing to keep my online and real-world interactions a little more coordinated. Or at the very least, if I plan to go off the grid for whatever reason, to stay off the grid and not put forth the appearance that my online persona is suffering from MPD. πŸ˜›

To my friends out in San Diego today, Happy Pride!

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