On GChat

1. I do not keep a journal or a blog, but I do GChat — pretty much whenever I am at a computer. Until recently, I spent five days a week working in an office, for a website. During that period, the time I spent in front of a computer constituted at least half of my waking hours; I don’t know for sure because I decided against calculating the exact number.

2. I don’t work in an office anymore, but I still spend a lot of time in front of a computer. I take more walks than I used to. Sometimes I go to a bookstore, or a museum. I log into GChat from my BlackBerry.

3. I have never deleted a chat from my chat history, and I have never taken a chat “off the record.” I have only been taken off the record once, in the middle of a chat about a subject that was causing me great anguish. “Ew,” I typed to my contact. “I hate myself. You should delete this.” Instead, my contact took us off the record; this irritated me, because what I meant when I said “delete it” was just that. I wanted to have it for myself — I just didn’t want him to. The next day, I went back to read the transcript and was predictably annoyed — troubled, maybe — that I could not see the post-off the record text. I could not remember what we had concluded, nor how we had reached whatever conclusion we had reached, if we’d reached any at all.

4. I started GChatting on March 6th, 2007, and as of this writing, I have 9940 chats in my records. If you have an idea for how I should commemorate my 10,000th chat – I estimate it will take place sometime late next week – you should let me know.

5. Recently, I was looking at a photo of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates,” which was installed in Central Park for a few months in 2005. I thought: “GChat orange.”

6. My first-ever GChat was with my then boyfriend, from the office in which I was an intern at the time. I remember being startled by the sudden appearance of the contact list on the left-hand side of the screen, under the mail options. I do not remember if I knew what I was doing when I initiated the chat — whether or not I knew what GChat was. I’d like to think it was intuitive. I’m sure Google would, too.

7. I opened the chat by typing to my then boyfriend in what I suppose you could call our house style, at the time: “You are stupid. I hate you. I am going to kill you – only you can prevent it!” “That’s not nice,” he responded. I typed back, “No, you are stupid. What are we eating for dinner?” The log ends there, so I don’t know how we figured out what to have for dinner. Maybe he sent me a text message.

8. Number of results returned by searching my GChat records for the term “Tao Lin”: 47

9. How is GChat different from AIM, which has existed since the beginning of time? You don’t get to make up a screen name — your handle automatically appears as the name associated with your GMail account. As with Facebook to MySpace, GChat, by design, asks you to take a little responsibility for yourself.

10. It would be basically impossible to have anonymous cybersex on GChat. There is Group Chat, but there are no GChat rooms and, even if there were, they would lack the dim light of AOL’s “Romance” chat rooms. The best you could do with GChat is some kind of key party, with everyone going off the record with someone else’s contact.

11. Another difference: GChat arranges all of your conversations in a neat row at the bottom of the screen. If you try to have more than six chats at once, the program automatically bumps the least active one off the screen. AIM just lets them pile up on top of each other.

12. Compared to AIM, GChat is a lot more like real life in general. Unless you go out of your way, you don’t add contacts; the system does it automatically, once you and another party have exchanged a certain number of emails. You kind of just start to see people around. Maybe you say hi, maybe you don’t. Maybe you talk about mutual friends, or the weather. Maybe you talk about whatever you talked about the last time you saw each other.

“I think it follows that GChat sometimes lubricates insincerity, because it is easier to type certain things into a box.”

13. When GChatting someone for the first time, it’s convenient if you can just continue the conversation from the emails that brought them onto your contact list in the first place. Barring that, find a funny link to send.

14. Results returned by searching my GChat records for the phrases “good name for a band,” “good band name,” “what I should call my band,” “what we should call our band,” “what I will call my band,” and “what we will call our band”: Philistine Collusion, Tits on a Stick, Better Yet, The NuvaRing, Reptar, The Candy (Ass) (W)Rappers, Joe Wilson’s Outburst, Black Market Fats, White Women in Peril, Shame Spiral.

15. While writing this piece, I conducted some research via GChat. I asked a contact, “What are your thoughts about GChat?” He replied, “GChat sometimes lubricates sincerity.” I asked why he thought that was. He replied, “Because it’s easier to type certain things into a box.

16. I think it follows that GChat sometimes lubricates insincerity, because it is easier to type certain things into a box.

17. On GChat, I type many things – sincere and not – that I would never say in person because it’s easy, when typing certain things into a box, to forget whom you are typing to.

18. The combined number of results returned by searching my GChat records for the terms “I lied” and “that was a lie”: 24

19. Sometimes – not often – contacts forward me GChats they have had with other people. Even when they do this to be funny, or nice – as opposed to say, treacherous – I tend to wish they hadn’t. I am reminded of what an elementary school drama teacher said upon catching me peeking at the audience through the curtains from backstage: “If you can see them, then they can see you.”

20. Recently, someone wrote on their blog: “Would you rather have your GChats made public, OR die?” For me, the answer is clear.

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