Because we can’t actually see each other when we speak, it’s crucial how we express ourselves in text. We can’t hear tone of voice, see body language and expressions. Everything we type is taken literally. Jokes can’t be understood thru laughter. Sarcasm by way of smurky expressions and a snide tone. Questions via raised eyebrows and raised pitch at the end of a sentence.
So how do we manage to get along so well with all this potential for misunderstanding? How do we get to know people better despite these limitations?
As a resident of virtual worlds, I have many people who I speak to via text messaging. Many of them I consider close friends. Because we share my favorite interest, virtual worlds, I consider a few of these friends to be even more of a friend than my friends in the real world. It’s important to me to be good to my friends.
I read between the lines of conversations. I listen to the attitudes expressed, the opinions given, the words used. I pay attention to the content of the conversations I have with the people I meet in virtual worlds. I also look through the profiles, group lists, and picks of people I meet. And, no, that’s not ‘perving’. That’s what profiles are for – sharing information about ourselves.
What do they value most? Do they talk about creative subjects? Relationships? What they own or don’t own? How avatars look? Politics, religion, money, technology, art? What they like to talk about tells me what kind of things are important to them, not only in virtual worlds but also in the real world. It tells me what they value most.
What do they like to do? What inworld activities and events do they enjoy? What sorts of groups do they belong to? What picks do they list in their profile? Are they all about creating? Exploring? Socializing? Music? Fashion? Real world stuff? Is their profile a ‘dating profile’? Do they seem to be in virtual worlds just for sex? Do they dress their avatar provocatively? Do they have ‘limits’ in their Picks? The subjects they enjoy engaging in tells me more about them than anything else.
In chat do they talk about others? Judge others? Are the manipulative? Crude? Do they agitate others? Mean spirited? Hateful? Angry? Do they always think they are right? Or are they kind? Considerate? Helpful? Do they show respect and tolerance for others who don’t necessarily share their opinions or values?
Can I trust them? Have I caught them in lies? Maybe not lies so much as being dishonest to themselves? Little white lies? Do they gossip? Over-share when I’ve just met them? Do they pry into personal subjects once I’ve drawn a line? Do they tell secrets? What do they think about content creators and licensing permissions?
Do they take responsibility for their actions? What do they say about past relationships? Do they make excuses? Blame others for their problems? Or do they take their fair share of responsibility? Do they ask me to do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves? Do they play helpless or dumb to attempt to get me to do things for them? Are they manipulative?
Are they positive and effective people? Do they complain, whine, cry around all the time, exhausting me and dragging me down with them? Or do they look for solutions to their problems?
By reading between the lines of the speech of people I meet, I come to know their character. It’s important to be choosy about the kinds of people I get closer too. I’ve learned, over time, that if I want a drama free life, I should avoid dramatic people. If I want a positive life, I need to avoid negative and complaining people and hang out with positive and uplifting people.
The subjects they enjoy engaging in tells me more about them than anything else. It tells me what kind of things are important to them, not only in virtual worlds but also in the real world. It tells me what kinds of things they value, what they like to do, how they treat other people.
Difficult people bring us stress, problems, and drama. Keeping them at arm’s length is not the same as judging a person as bad or good. I try not to judge. I know that I’m not perfect and that I’ve been even less perfect. I may understand why a person does what they do or how they came to be the kind of person they are. But, that does not mean that I need to become their next best friend.
It works in reverse as well. Not only is it important what kind of people I surround myself with but it’s also important what kind of person I am for my friends and family. I try to be a better friend by trying to be honest with, first myself, then others. If I can’t be honest with myself, how can I be honest and authentic with others? Integrity is important to me. I try to admit when I’m wrong, made a mistake, or in some way am not perfect. I try to respect the feelings and boundaries of those I hold dear. Most of all, I try to be kind, giving, and considerate. To take the time to listen.
These are the things that make me feel better and I try to do the same. I also look for people with similar values therefor making my life richer. None of us are perfect, least of all me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone else to be perfect. On the other hand, I find it’s important not to let people who choose to dwell in the pits to pull me in with them.
So, what do your words say about you? How does your avatar, your profile, your groups and your picks portray you? Are you the person you want to be? The person you want to know? Want to bring closer?
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