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.


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://hbgwhem.tumblr.com/ hbgwhem.tumblr.com

    waittt i'm confused. why can't you have anon cybersex on gchat??
    i could just make a gmail account of like SailormoonHottie4u or whatever and then i'm in business, errr, i mean, the person who wants to have anon cybersex is.
    i agree with the status part of this piece. for ~1 yr my gchat status was “WHO WILL FIX MY COFFEE,” an excerpt from one of my favorite post-OC Mischa Barton mental breakdowns.
    also: feel like you don't gchat abt Lilo enough.

    my biggest problem with gchat is that it's hard to initiate the 'first' gchat. i think i talk to the same six people on there since i'm not sure if i'm good enough friends with the other people to form gchat relationships.

    • http://twitter.com/readdanwrite Daniel Roberts

      SailorMoonHottie4u, Id gchat with her.

  • Bookwoman11

    well this is just fascinating and enlightening to someone like myself who hasn't a clue what gChat is. i wonder if i should investigate. i am already a twitter addict. my house might *literally* moss over if i get hooked on this gChat thing.

  • Ryan

    Cool! now how does netflix work?

  • JJ

    I got bored a quarter way through.

  • Yiy47

    what was the point of this again?

  • gucci mane

    i wish facebook chat kept records like gchat. i think gchat is maybe 4 old people ? bc the only ones i have r with my mom…….and once my friend sammy gchatted me and said 'get on fb chat'

  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    Shame Spiral is possibly the best name for a band ever ever ever.

  • vif

    Gtalk is the downloadable version for those of us who can't remember to not close the window Google is open in.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kfelicetti/ Kristen Felicetti

    My first-ever Gchat (3 lines), 06/20/07:

    12:59 PM Carly: hi kristen!
    i just sent you an e-mail
    1:10 PM me: oh sweet! i'll go read it. i've never used this gmail instant messenger thing

    • http://kumquatparadise.tumblr.com aaron nicholas

      my first gchat:

      Sarah: hi bro. i have no idea what this gmail chat thing is, but i'm trying it. love ya.
      me: ;yea me neither
      howdy do

      circa february 2006, apparently before i/they figured out timestamps.

  • Andrewworthington

    i say i am away on gchat if i am busy but dont want to go invisible because i have a relevant link as my away message

  • http://twitter.com/rawiya rawiya

    this is my life.

  • Ryan O'Connell

    Um. I worked in the cubicle next to yours at interview for three months and we did NOT Gchat,



  • Dreamlife1982

    this is really fantastic.

    thank you for sharing it, Ms. Bankoff.

    this one really pulled at heartstrings:

    21. From my research:

    [Redacted]: well, I think a key part of gchat is that it is recording everythingggg
    and you can search later and find it
    which is a bummer if you are searching for something and see old chats with an ex
    which is something GChat causes all the time
    Me: why not delete the chats, if they bum you out?
    [Redacted]: nooo, never delete
    it seems un-Gmail-like
    you have so much space, you never have to delete anything
    in some ways, it’s nice having those things come back to haunt you
    if it really does bug you, I guess you can delete it
    but like, sometimes seeing someone’s name makes you think…THERE’S STILL A CHANCE
    Me: Would you throw away love letters, or keep them? if you just stumbled upon them, like when you’re looking for something in your Gmail?
    [Redacted]: I don’t know, i don’t have those
    have you heard of this thing, the Internet?
    that’s what people use now

    not sure if you've ever felt the way your gchat friend felt, but I've been there and it's not so much fun.

    got many laughs out of it, mind you. :-)

    thanks again.

  • http://onward-sailing.blogspot.com arnie

    o god, gchat.

    most lines via one chat/sitting 2k10, guy#1 : (2,492)
    2nd top #, guy #2: (1,949)

    (2,492) that's like ~5 hrs. what am i doing w. my life.

    top that anybody?

    also, who has been blocked? fuck that.

  • http://twitter.com/drivingmenuts drivingmenuts

    Something to think about: Google is probably indexing your chat logs, even as we sit here, to divine some particle of information that can be used in some fashion.

  • http://twitter.com/katharinejoann Katharine J. Relth

    Yep – the emoticon with the (@) bracketed by (~)s is definitely a pile of shit.

  • Fernando Estrella

    Ms. Bankoff, you are so full of @~ . And inactivity. And bipolarity. And I hope you change.

  • callmeann

    I remember breaking up with someone over gchat last year. He soooo deserved it.

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