ICQ opens up a world of contacts like nothing that's come before it. But no matter how big your contact list gets, you could find yourself getting nowhere or worse still, getting yourself into trouble both with
people you want to know and some you don't.|
This guide aims to help new users understand the medium from a social point of view so they can make the most of all the interesting people out there in cyberia.
|1. You don't have to greet people all the time!|
So you might find yourself wanting to say hello to each of your friends every time they pop up on your contact list just to let them to know you recognise their entry and are open to their conversation. This is fine to a point but everyone greeting and saying goodbye to everyone all the time is very time consuming and in the end it becomes more like boring routine than community-building.
Remember, ICQ can bring you into contact with people for more of your day and far more regularly than you might have otherwise. They are only really with you to the extent that you're talking to them about something constructive or interesting. Don't worry about greeting every time. If they've been using it for a while, they won't be offended if you don't greet them first. Just wait until you have something to say, as in the next point.
|2. What are you going to say after "hello"?|
It's the simplest thing of all but definitely something to keep in mind! There's nothing sillier than getting buzzed in for a chat by a stranger and then being waited on for something relevant and exciting to say.
|3. Be tolerant and aware of what the other person is doing!|
Just take your time. If sitting waiting for responses is getting boring, start doing something else or talk to other people yourself. There's a whole world of friends to choose from out there. Sometimes it's important not to forget all the other options you have for information and entertainment and that others are probably already enjoying theirs.
|4. Can't work out what your new friend is on about? Help is at hand!|
The world of text can be confusing though because you're often talking to lots of people at once. So just make a mental note of the last thing you said to a person before you go off and do something else. You can't always tell what you've been talking about from the context. Their reply could be "Yeah that sounds good." or "Nah I don't think so" or "*laugh*". It's uniquely frustrating for someone to laugh at something and you can't laugh with them because you've forgotten your own joke.
'Course, there will always be times when you don't know what's going on. Often the message is sent and saved till you next fire up ICQ so what you get is a fragment of the last conversation you had with that person. Other times you just plain and simply forget. Even so, you still may not need to ask them to explain themselves. A great feature of ICQ is History which logs your previous dialogue. Use it! Right click on the username, then click on History.
|5. Don't try to hide from people too much or they'll wise up!|
But there are dangers in overusing these functions because the people can figure out that you're avoiding them. This is particularly true if you have mutual ICQ contacts (which is probably most of the time). If you make yourself away and invisible to one person, but not to another, they might mention you and it'll soon be apparent that you're avoiding them. Also, if you make yourself "web aware", that means anyone in the world can find out your true status by checking out your World Wide Web pager or on any contact list that chooses to list your current status.
Why does it matter? Consider the next point!
|6. Don't provoke people, especially young eggheads.|
Well, think again. They might be physically on the other side of the world but in the universe you're inhabiting, they might as well be sitting right next to you with a finger on your computer reset button.
The possibilities for "hacking into" your system to get all your most private files are greatly sensationalised but generally with the right program or technical skill, there are dozens of ways anyone can make life pretty uncomfortable for you. You could find your system repeatedly crashes, have people pose as your friends, fill your electronic mailbox with garbage until it dies or even (if you're silly enough to run a program they give you) erase all the information your hard drive.
Keep in mind that the most annoying people in cyberspace (often young teenagers) are also the ones most likely to bring you to grief.
Be nice! If someone's bothering you, ignore them completely or come up with a good excuse. The age-old rules of dealing with harassment apply - don't let them know you're bothered, be firm and avoid them carefully.
For safety's sake, it's worth making sure your Windows 95/NT system is nuke protected in any case. That will reduce the chance of your system crashing on you.
|7. Don't believe OR pass on rumours.|
Mirabilis have said repeatedly they won't charge for ICQ without notice and that notice will not come via the Chinese Whispers rumour mill but directly from them. Mirabilis's statement on partnership with America OnLine can be found here.
It's also important to understand that Mirabilis or anyone else cannot possibly record all the messages you pass on. If you and your friend are online, your messages go directly from your computer to his, not through Mirabilis. The path that information travels on is not centralised on the Internet - it will just try to take the shortest route it can. No company owns enough of the net to come anywhere near confidently monitoring what messages are sent between any two given computers. So there is no way for you to gain credits or have your account kept or register any vote by passing on a message.
Warning messages about viruses and other nasties getting out from accepting emails or ICQ messages are normally also illfounded. Generally only Word documents and programs have the ability to do damage.
|8. Using ICQ to drum up business with people who may not want your advertising is very silly.|
People still do it. And they try to hide their identity in various ways. But with ICQ, messages are addressed directly from their computer to yours. They can find out exactly where you are. You could well end up getting hit in some of the ways mentioned point 6 if you try it.
|9. Skip straight to informed, interesting conversation!|
And of course, from a home page you can find out all sorts of information about a person. So check that out too! It's a useful tool for picking who you will allow to add you to their contact list or who to get into random chat with. If they've been round the net for a while, you might also want to look up what posts they have done to Usenet on DejaNews.
With such amazingly diverse interests represented on the net, you can really find golden friendships and information but by the same token, there's a lot more stuff you just don't appreciate. It's well worth developing the skill of filtering to get down to the things you personally want. Typing to everyone asking their interests is the slowest way possible of meeting people like yourself - there is always the local bar or night club for that sort of thing.
So get out there and take advantage of the new medium. Use your initiative to find people you really
want to know and learn to skip past the stuff that slows you down!
Be sure to check out Mirabilis's page if
you haven't already. It has heaps more ideas for broadening your horizons with ICQ, as well as heaps of lists of users
to add to your contact list!|
Confused by chat acronyms like BTW and IMHO? A great summary can be found here.
This is just one of many pages at www.orchy.com done by the author of this page, Luke Metcalfe. He also has a personal page here which includes a form to help with search engines. There's also a colourful example ICQ user list with photos.
Web design, cartoon colouring and text © Copyright Luke Metcalfe () June 1998.
Cartoons © Copyright David McDermott June 1998.