I have depended upon social networking for my daily "people fix" for upwards of twenty years now. As a writer, I've often worked from home, and, beginning with CompuServe Forums so many years ago, I've really come to enjoy - and depend on - my little trips to the virtual water cooler for gossip, information, and contact with living, breathing, albeit asynchronous, human beings.
At its best, it's a giant network of pen pals from all over the world. I can drop in whenever I like and see updates from people whom I've gotten to know through photographs and the written word; someone is always doing something interesting.
I work in short bursts; I get antsy if I focus on one thing for too long. I need short breaks to function at my best, so social networking is ideal for me. I'm in and out in a few minutes, feeling refreshed and human again; that little bit of contact with the world allows me to dip back into my work with renewed vigor and get the job done. There are no interruptions when I'm working, and I'm not interrupting anyone else's work when I need my people fix. That's the beauty of asynchronous communication.
Unfortunately, Facebook has a chat function. Since I usually keep a Facebook window open and handy for my quick little breaks, chat means that anyone can open a window to me anytime they like. I was raised to be polite; it's hard for me to ignore someone who is asking to speak to me. Unfortunately, those little windows usually open at a time when I'm busily writing, which created a dilemma for me: politeness or work? Whichever I choose, I'm going to have regrets. So, for a long time, I'd managed to keep the chat function disabled. I think that option must have run out; suddenly that darn chat window has started popping up again.
This morning, it popped up while I was taking a physical break from the computer; when I came back, I saw the little chat window on my screen with two lines of text in it. The first line said, "Hello," and the second said, "Why did you accept my friendship if you're not going to talk to me?"
Oddly enough, this plaintive cry was from someone who didn't appear to be human. The entity who was upset when I didn't instantly respond was a bead store. Now, I like bead stores as much as any beader, but I like to visit them when I want to buy beads. As much as I like them, I'm not in the habit of inviting them into my home. I began to think about the bead store's message, and then, I began to wonder why I had accepted the friend request. I unfriended it. If a bead store believes that I should be at its beck and call after accepting its friendship, then I don't want the friendship.
I realized that I needed to deal with the chat window. Now.
I went into the settings, and "disable chat" was no longer an option. "Available to chat" was checked off; I clicked on it again, hoping to see the check mark disappear. No such luck. That stumped me for a few minutes; the only other option was "Limit availability." I clicked that, but found only a list of my lists; it seems that Facebook does not want to let me choose to chat with no one anymore.
I fooled 'em.
Or at least, I hope I did; I made up a new list called "Chat," and selected it as the only group to whom I am available for chat. The "chat" list is empty.
I've got my fingers crossed that it works.