The Delicate Etiquette of Chat - 10 Tips for Instant Messaging


So let's assume that your profile pic rocked, your about me section was all that and you've waded through the chaff to find someone worthy of a chat. Before you just dive in with a "Hi there!" - let's take a moment and review some basic rules for giving good chat.

1. Have a plan - you either want to flirt, get to know someone, just spend a little time or a combination of the above. But have an idea of how you want the conversation to go or what you want to get out of it before you start. There's noting worse than sitting in a chat staring at the blinking cursor. Hello? Hello? Is there any intelligent life on this planet?

2. NO SHOUTING - There's no reason for ALL CAPS. It's jarring and appears as though you are screaming your conversation. For that matter, stop with the crazy fonts and background images. Having falling leaves and rainbows as your chat environment and sparkly fuschia letters in 18 point text is cute for your pre-teen daughter. You're supposed to be a grown up. Stop it.

3. No machine gunning - It's the rapid fire statements, one after another before the other person has a chance to respond. 
Them: I like wine.
Them: Do you drink wine?
Them: Cheese is great too.
Them: We should go to a wine bar.
Them: Don't want you to think I'm a lush.
Them: But wine is great. With chocolate too.
Them: I think chocolate is a food group.
Them: I could never be in a relationship with someone who didn't like chocolate.
Them: Why aren't you answering?

You: Um... give me a second to get a word in?
4. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) - Especially that first chat. Don't try to do too much. The purpose of chatting should be developing a comfort level to move to a phone conversation or an in face meeting. You need to be charming, not smarmy. Open, not thirsty. Do not lead off with discussions about exes, whether size matters or politics. Take it slow.

5. Read once and then again - It's not as easy to pull context from a few lines of a stranger's text as it is from hearing a voice. So when you read a comment, stop and read it twice. And don't jump to conclusions. Feel free to use the phrase, "Can you tell me more?" or "That's interesting, what do you mean by that?" Trust me. One time I bit a guy's head off because I thought he was calling me a tramp. Turned out he was talking about the song, "The Lady is A Tramp" to illustrate his love of jazz. AWKWARD

6. Smileys are your friend - And since things can be misinterpreted and not everyone gets your sense of humor right away, it's okay to throw in a LOL and a :-)... just not every :-/ other O__o word!

7. Be proactive - Don't sit and wait to be dazzled. You are both auditioning. Have one or two things you want to discuss and get to it. The blinking cursor is the kiss of death. Get to the point where (like a job interview) you have a killer icebreaker that cuts the tension and gets the ball rolling. It's just another weapon in the arsenal. Acquire it. Master it. Use it.

8. Watch the tone - The line between flirty and freaky is thin, know which side of it both of you want to be on and stay there unless invited across. The line between snarky and bitter cynicism is razor thin as well. I remember telling one dude, "Pardon me, your inner bitter black dude is showing." He logged off. Buh-bye now.

9. Proofread - Again.... spell check is your friend. Most of these programs will underline your misspelled words so unless you are like me and make up shiggity words from time to time, pay attention to what the built in editor is telling you. And double check what you type, as you type. You have no idea how much drama can pop off because you typed bare instead of bear

10. Have an Exit Strategy - Your phone is ringing, you have somewhere else to be, it's time for sleep... have SOME way of cutting off the conversation. Some people will chat the night away (talking about absolutely nothing) until you nip it in the bud. And if you decide you'd like to chat again, set up a time to do that before logging out. However, if you are too through with the conversation and someone isn't taking the hint - feel free to eject yourself without a backward glance. This is just a chat, no one has taken any vows.

And a bonus tip - Know your IM software. Once you have cut someone off, is there a way to keep them from seeing you? Stealth or Incognito mode is your friend. IM is a cyberstalker's playground, do you know how to block and report "inappropriate" behavior? I have dropped dime on many a flagrant line-stepper in my past and would do so again in a heartbeat. Life is too short, my friends. 

BougieLand, what say you to my list? Did I miss one? Do you have some helpful chat tips to share with the group? Is there a "line" you use that always breaks the ice? Do share...