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Drama Mamas: When connecting online seems like a Real bad IDea

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

When is your privacy not your privacy? When it's connected to everyone else's privacy. This week, the Drama Mamas help a reader whose desire to reserve sharing her email address and online status for her real-life friends is heating up her WoW friends list -- and they're boiling over at not being included.
Hi Drama Mamas, I've decided to only add people as Real ID friends who are RL friends that play on another server. I'm one of those people who sometimes like to hop on a character unknown to the folks I usually play with and spend some hours ingame on my own or with my boyfriend. However, I do have a lot of ingame friends I'm pretty close with and talk about a lot of things apart from the game.

After installing the patch and logging on my main, it took only half an hour before I got the first whisper, containing an email adress and asking me to add them via Real ID. I told the person no, I'm only going to add very few RL friends to that list. I recieved a very sulky reply. Today the scenario repeated itself, meaning two days of playing very little have passed and two people are already angry at me for not adding them. Is there anything I can do to prevent other ingame friends to react the same? Why can't some people accept that sometimes I do want to play, but don't want to chat? Taz'Dingo, Anonyma


Drama Mama Lisa: Look at any of the comments or forum threads on the Real ID and names appearing on forums posts debacle, Anonyma, and you'll find similar reactions. For all the frantic warnings over the horrible, horrible things that could go wrong when online privacy gets breached or debates about the value of anonymity vs. transparency, we sometimes forget the simplest, most human appeal: Sometimes, all we want is a little privacy.

It's rather like the debate over whether or not to close the bathroom door when your significant other is around. Those who do are horrified at the boors who don't, and those who don't relentlessly mock the prudes who do. "Right" or "wrong" ... come again? This sort of thing is completely up to your social sensibilities and personal comfort level -- as is the decision over whether or not to employ a video game like World of Warcraft as a window into your personal and social life.

Now, you may get this concept, and I may get this concept -- but your in-game friends obviously have other goals in mind. What you need at this point is a lighter-than-air touch. Telling others outright that you are accepting Real ID friends -- just not, you know, them -- is probably not the friendliest approach. You need to come up with a new line. You could blame it on Real ID: "I'm not confident they've worked out all the privacy kinks yet." You could blame it on exhaustion: "You know, I started friending a few people, and it was just too much chat for me at the end of the day; I've decided to quit using it now." You could even blame your boyfriend (with his permission, of course): "I don't know -- (boyfriend's name) really loves when we play together without anyone else knowing where we are. I'm not sure he'd be happy about having people know when we're trying to escape together online ... I'm holding off on friending people for now."

Whatever (gentle) excuse or honest reason you decide to extend, make it one that doesn't cause others to feel shut out of the clubhouse. And if they end up thinking you're a stodgy old eccentric ... Well, at least you can suffer your grumpiness in relative privacy, no?

Drama Mama Robin: Real ID is like unprotected sex. Just as you are only as safe as the other unsafe encounters your partner has had, your real name is only as private as the Real ID friends of your Real ID friends.

The problem with Real ID is that we don't have any protection options other than abstinence. I dream of a future where we laugh at the current privacy issues with this feature. We'll snicker about the lack of an invisible mode and snort when we think about the inability to turn off Friends of Friends. [Update: Blizzard announced earlier today that this will be changing soon.] Until that time, we need to make sure we only go all the way with Real ID friends we trust.

I'm Real ID-promiscuous. I have some standards; I won't just accept any friend invite (unlike Facebook, where I'm an absolute slut), but I do accept invites from people I know. I've warned them that accepting a Real ID request from me means a naughty spreading of real names across the Friends of Friends network. I don't get offended when people decline.

Anonyma, I know that your issue is more about controlling your social interaction, but I do think that citing issues with the Friends of Friends function will serve you better than saying that sometimes you want to be antisocial. Some people take "I would like to play alone or with my boyfriend for a bit" to mean "I don't like you." Their insecurities are not your fault, but they are natural and, unfortunately, common.

I think that the best solution for you is to form a closed Real ID circle with your current Real ID friends. You all agree to the friends in your Real ID circle and make a pact to not invite anyone else without approval of the circle. It sounds like you have pretty much already done that, but formalizing it will help you with your problem as well as make sure you and your Real ID friends are on the same page. You can then tell anyone asking to be your Real ID friend about the closed circle.

You may still have people who get testy, but hopefully it will be lessened with a clear explanation.

Drama Buster of the Week

Suspect Real ID is a real bad idea for you? Learn how to customize your settings or opt out entirely.

Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at dramamamas@wow.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Drama Mamas

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