365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 34: Chat!


34. Chat

There was a time when you could only chat with someone else when you were face to face.

I’m not from that time.

Then, telephones were invented and soon, you could chat with anyone who also had a phone for as long as you wanted…well, as long as you had a phone subscription or enough coins for a pay phone. I grew up in such times, but I never really called up anyone to chat much because I didn’t have anyone to chat with over the phone. And I didn’t like chatting. I preferred to read.

When I learned how to chat socially, I did it with my best friends in grade school and high school, and even if I had the phone numbers of some of my friends, I still didn’t call anyone much just to chat. Phone calls were for important things, to set appointments and dates and other such business.

Then I encountered boys. And they called. And we chatted. And it was fun. And tickled me pink. And I learned that people don’t always look the way their voices sounded. So I was careful about getting set up by phone. Anyone I entertained on the phone was already someone I had met.

It never occurred to me to chat away on a phone with friends. That’s probably because I usually met my friends everyday, at school or at work and we already spent a lot of time chatting. Well, not really–I did chat with friends occasionally on the phone, but it was usually they who called me. As I said, I’m bad for phone chatting. I could have called friends so many times just to chat but I never wanted to bother them in their daily routines because they might be doing something and not really want to chat. So I’d just chat if they initiated the call. I still only called for important reasons or business purposes, hardly ever to just chat. Unless I really liked a guy. But I’m not getting into that.

Then, the personal computer was invented. Most of the time, I just used it for work, because that was pretty much all it was limited to. Well, there was email and browsing as well, but those were limited too. Email was for work. Browsing, well, that was a waste of time if it didn’t involve work. Besides, there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to browse through then.

Then Windows was invented. And Yahoo! And Yahoo! groups And Yahoo! Messenger. Still, I didn’t chat. My YM list never expanded. I used Yahoo! groups for classes. And Yahoo! for mail.

Then Facebook was invented. From everything I’d heard about Facebook as a “social networking” site, I didn’t think I’d want to get on it. After all, I could attend to my business through Yahoo! Mail, and my browsing consisted of research for work or writing purposes.

Then I finally decided I should try and see what this Facebook was all about, as everyone at work was on Facebook. After a tentative foray into Facebook, I eventually got into the swing of things and discovered that so many hundreds of people I knew and encountered in the past were also on Facebook! All of a sudden, my wondering about how a former student or a former classmate or a former colleague were was not just wondering. I could actually find many of them on Facebook and actually “connect’ with them so that I knew how they were doing, what they were up to, what they were thinking, planning, eating, playing. Let’s not get into that.

And I discovered FB Chat. Believe me, it wasn’t that I was avoiding it. One of my friends just suddenly popped up in a box and we got into chatting! Because I had used YM, I was familiar with the box popping up out of nowhere. Soon, friends were popping up now and then, and I have found it a great and wonderful to keep in touch, keep up, especially with people you’ve been close to, or want to remain close to. Oh, I’m still bad at initiating a chat session. I’m usually working at my email, my blog, my online writing presence, my freelance writing, when a box suddenly pops up. Sometimes the box pops up and I’m not around, so those people get ignored. Not that I meant to ignore them. And sometimes the box pops up when I’m really busy writing and don’t want to be disturbed…because I don’t want to break my trend of thought…like now. But most of the time, when a box pops up, it’s someone I really want to keep in touch with, so we chat…and chat and chat and chat.

It’s a really great way to get a “live” conversation going, which is way different from sending wall messages and comments and likes. Still, all the other passive/active ways of keeping in touch is a great way to keep people in your lives and remind them that you’re still interested in them. I like best the fact that you can jump into any wall conversation and have your say! No matter that you don’t get a response. You still have your say.

Of course, I avoid having my say on everything. Some things are just so trivial or ignorable. After all, people can say or put anything they want on their walls (barring the self-policing and policing by watchers who can flag your content as inappropriate or offensive…not that this censorship happens all the time) because there is freedom of speech on the Internet! And it allows people to say things. And sometimes others listen. Let’s not get into that.

So I’m writing this because I just concluded a very pleasant chat session with an old schoolmate from university days, sharing notes on a variety of things.

What’s bad about it? The chatting just keeps on and on…other things get put aside. Sure, you can end it when you want, or just not reply at all when you have something really important to do. But it’s just nice chatting with some people.

So I’ve put off my housecleaning, which I promised myself I’d do today all morning at least, before I sat down to chat. What happened? I ended up starting my day clearing my email inbox, then started answering some email, and before you knew it, a chat box, then another and another yet popped up. It’s amazing that I can chat with three different people at the same time. On a phone or face-to-face, that would be considered rude, especially if the people are involved in different conversations with you! But on Chat, nobody knows who else you’re chatting with! Or what else you’re doing while you’re chatting. That is just awesome!

So I do look forward to Chats, because it makes me feel like all your friends are closer than they really are…that people are just next door…just a Chat box away even if they’re halfway around the world! I think social networking is an amazing breakthrough in communication. Whatever happens, though, I don’t plan to get a webcam. I’d rather chat away without having to dress up or fix myself up just to chat. We still need that certain level of privacy in our lives, and webcams just cross that line and I’m not comfortable with that.

But I will chat!

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 7: Making a New Friend


7. Making a New Friend

I have always considered myself a fairly shy and introverted person, and I always felt that I had difficulty making new friends. I’m the one who’ll attend an event–perhaps and workshop, lecture or seminar, or even an exhibit, and just move around on my own without knowing anyone at the start, and leaving without knowing anyone! I just sometimes get so intimidated by people, especially in crowds.

It’s a reflection of my being so self-conscious, I suppose. I never really consciously have thoughts running through my head, like “Will he/she like me?” “Will they talk to me?” “Will they want to be friends?” “What will they think of me?” and so on, but I’m pretty sure that’s how my body feels, and that’s probably what every single brain cell in my head is thinking. But they don’t tell me about it. They don’t speak out aloud to me. I rather wish they would, then I’d be able to process the feelings. But they just silently think away and make me avoid contact.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make new friends. If you looked at my Facebook page and checked out my friends, you’d see over a thousand, and the list grows a little more each day. I’d like to think they’re all friends, but a Facebook goes, they’re really all people I’ve met in various occasions over the last several years of my life—pretty much from childhood friends to colleagues. The vast majority of them, really, are former students of mine. And I’m really happy that I’m connected to them through Facebook, and see what significant things are happening in their lives.

If you really counted them, I’d have a fairly good number of friends whom I communicate with occasionally. Most of them were made through work, or in school. Still, they’re not all friends who’d understand my little quirks and foibles and my wry dry sardonic humor…in fact some of my really good friends still don’t get my humor, sometimes. But those I have spent the most time with and who know me enough to figure out what I feel and what I’d say or think about some things most of the time, are a very select number of people who are now mostly halfway around the world. And the only way I can communicate with them constantly—or at least as frequently as I can given the 12-hour time difference, is through email, Facebook messages, and the occasional live chat.

So when I do creep out of my shell (oh yes, there is a shell, but it seems to have gotten more transparent) and say “Hello, I’m Cindy!” to someone, it’s because my guts tell me that person can be a friend, or would be interesting to know, or would be nice to speak with. It’s also because I’m in a totally new country where I am starting a whole new life thousands of miles away from old friends, family, and acquaintances, and I need to start making new connections and building new relationships.

I think, if we don’t go out of our way to say “Hi! I’m —. What’s your name?” we’ll never make any friends at all. Who knows what’s beyond that chance meeting? And if the other person doesn’t respond the way you hope they might, then you don’t really lose anything, do you?

I was so afraid of being rejected by people, that I suppose, that was the major reason I didn’t go out of my way to make the first introduction. But after having been a teacher, mentor, manager, actor, dancer, emcee, and so many other roles that require constant communication and initiative, as well as a certain amount of aggression and loads of confidence, I’m really quite confident in my ability to step up to someone and say “Hi! I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” I’m not worried about rejection anymore, since I’ve experienced quite a bit of it in very painful ways, and I’m still alive and still have lots of things going for me, and I know I can be a wonderful friend to others, if they’re interested in having me as a friend. So if I feel there’s a particular person who could be friendly in return (yes, I do play safe and just don’t go up to anyone on the street!) in a situation that isn’t threatening, I might just go up and say “Hi, I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” and start looking for areas of interest or things to talk about besides the weather, and the weather as well.

I just did today, and I think it’ll be the start of a wonderful new friendship!