After Andrew and I broke up, several of our Important Conversations to hash things out (not fighting, just explanations and expressions of feelings and whatnot) took place via Messenger. And at the time I thought it was a bit weird, and would probably be considered poor etiquette or whatever, but overall, I didn’t care. I was going through hell and he couldn’t talk to me face to face and this way I could get things off my chest and he finally told me what was going on in his half of our relationship the last two years or so. So fuck you, Miss Manners.
That said, acceptance of “new media”-based communication is still lagging, such that we are only now developing etiquette for email usage, particularly when it comes to relationships. And like any other manners-based decree, it’s all guidelines. People will still interpret, ignore, or break the rules. I think we are still years away from “norms” in terms of how we communicate online, and in terms of what is accepted or not. And I think it will be some time before the average person will cease to think that having major, life-affecting conversations in text is rude, cowardly, or simply geeky and antisocial. So be it. I disagree.
As I said, with Andrew and I, it worked. I heard things I never wanted to hear, but within a couple months I was starting to like him as a friend again, and I could deal with the idea of dating, which wouldn’t have been the case without those conversations. (I kinda screwed up the dating thing the first time around, but that’s another story… Hmm, maybe THAT’S the real reason that poor guinea pig refuses to use Messenger with me…) 🙂
Today a friend of mine had a similar experience. A slowly imminent ending that took place via Messenger. On Blackberry, even. My friend wasn’t entirely comfortable with that, either. No reason to be. How many people have had any experience with that in the past? However, it got what needed to be said out in the open. It stopped someone’s game-playing and what was starting to become cowardliness, and aired what was really going on. Hurt? Hell yes. People are still people, and they still care as much as they ever did, regardless of what form the words are put into.
Now, there are all kinds of tangles that potentially come along with this new territory. Saving logs of conversations can be good to re-read to help you understand better. Or it can help you obsess. Getting your thoughts out in text can help you say things you’ve been unable to say, face to face. But if you’re saying them to someone who doesn’t think text-based Important Conversations are appropriate, you’re going to get anger and insult, not communication and understanding.
Using online modes of communication is kind of like being bisexual. You’ve got yourself another opportunity for Good Things. But you’ve also got yourself another opportunity to screw up or experience serious rejection. I think as long as you’re doing your best, and basing communication on the premise of do no harm, all’s fair in love, war, and emoticons.