Never Say Goodbye

We’ve noticed before, with a combination of wonder, admiration, and chagrin, how lots of television people (i.e. Fox Mulder) never end their phone conversations saying goodbye. Of course, they don’t have to because it’s scripted, and you don’t want to waste even one second when you’ve only got 44 minutes to develop a plot from start to finish. But it’s also kind of cool. I’ve tried it myself a few times, with varied success. (I’m not making the changeover completely, let’s put it that way.)

And even if ending a phone conversation is sometimes difficult (especially if you’re talking to a talker or a lover), it pales in comparison with ending an Instant Message session.

Take this transcript of the tail end of a recent Instant Message session between Dan and me (reproduced here without any edits):

losmadden (9:10:01 PM): So. you busy nowadaze?
radical dan (9:10:08 PM): i am
radical dan (9:10:12 PM): i have to go now actually
radical dan (9:10:14 PM): to eat
radical dan (9:10:19 PM): and go to a lecture
losmadden (9:10:37 PM): cool. do some more maddenation stuff. dad posted a great entry today.
radical dan (9:10:53 PM): haha, yeah. typical madden though
losmadden (9:11:03 PM): so?>
radical dan (9:11:04 PM): i’ll get on it
radical dan (9:11:13 PM): just saying, it’s typical.
losmadden (9:11:14 PM): cool. say hi to doug for me.
radical dan (9:11:31 PM): say hi to dog for me
losmadden (9:11:34 PM): i mean dog.
losmadden (9:11:40 PM): yup.
losmadden (9:11:54 PM): be righteous.
radical dan (9:11:58 PM): i am.
radical dan (9:12:04 PM): don’t be a gifthorse.
losmadden (9:12:06 PM): adios then. hasta luego.
radical dan (9:12:24 PM): piece
losmadden (9:12:33 PM): out.
radical dan (9:12:38 PM): out

That took about 2.5 minutes. Granted, we were typing, and maybe doing other things, but this is short compared to some chats I’ve been involved in.

So what is it? Certainly the lack of true simultaneity leads often to criss-crossings and backtracking. Notice our overlapping “dog pinnick” jokes (derived from a terrible album-cover-art fan submission at King’s X’s web site). Notice the painfully awkward filling. Dan has already said he has to go, and I don’t want to begin a new idea. And how, exactly, does one really end? Instant Messenger tells you when your friend is on- or offline. What if when you’ve finished your conversation, your friend wants to continue a chat with another friend? There they stay in your Buddy window, and you know they didn’t really “have to go,” they were just sick of you. What if they anticipate that and disconnect from Instant Messenger, but then check back every now and then to see if you’re gone so they can chat with someone else and you keep getting that creaky door sound followed quickly by a slam?

As I’ve said, the example above gives only a small glimpse of this global problem. As more of us “get connected” and use Instant Messager, the problem will only grow worse, and I fear that not even Chris Carter has a solution.

PatrickQuestions02/28/03 0 comments

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