Pleasantry and the Pixel

Much of my life is virtual. I still boot about on IRC. I'm a guild master for what I consider to be a very successful social / educational guild in World of Warcraft. I earned my diploma online rather than in person. (My local in person option was barely accredited at that juncture. What say ye to that, stodgy in person learning advocate?) I've enjoyed being a contractor at a distance, as well.

One of the most important conversations I had was with an instructor. They conveyed that it was tough to gauge an audience's reaction or interest at a distance. I had reckoned that it would be prior to that conversation (after all, how would one measure participation in a virtual setting?), so I did what I doubt other students did. I asked false questions to convey that I was paying attention to the topic at hand. I was either up for asking stuff that was whispered to me by another student who was too embarrassed to ask what was on their mind or I'd let loose with one that I thought would benefit other people. It was always the best if I had an actual question, mind you. However, the query itself was a way for me to say "Hey, I'm here. I'm paying attention."

My propensity to greet people as they log in to an irc channel has earned me a reputation of being friendly. That friendliness at times has not only served to make people feel welcome, but also to signal that it's okay to trust me for a deeper side conversation. The simple repetition of greeting has paved the way for a much more complex "I'm working on this problem, and I need to vent." Who's to expect any different? We do that in person, after all.

My point here is that it is better to be over friendly in an electronic medium than it is to be silent. Doing so will encourage others be friendly with one another. Pretty soon, you have a virtual Cheers.