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Take the Chat-Status Personality Test

Your online chat status tells the world far more than you realize. Dr. Smartass explains what your instant messaging settings say about your personality.

By (@doctorsmartass)

December 21, 2009

Got a question for Dr. Smartass? E-mail doc [at] esarcasm.com.

Dr. SmartassMy dear subjects, being a (fake) medical expert comes with its share of perks. I get loads of tail by wearing my Internet-bought white coat out on the town, for example. But the benefit I’m speaking of today is the ability to read people’s personalities from signs they unwittingly provide.

These signs are everywhere. We’ve talked before about passwords and personalities, typing style and brain function, even breast size and unspoken intentions. Today, however, we turn our attention to one of the modern world’s most thriving social scenes: the instant messaging interface.

From my inbox:

Dear Dr. Smartass,

This guy I know is always signed into AIM and always has his status set to “busy” or “unavailable.” What’s the matter with him? Why doesn’t he just sign off?


My dear Amy, your question is wise; many of my associates exhibit this same unexplained behavior. Of course, I’ve always jumped to my own unconfirmed conclusions — that they’re lurking online to spy on me, in the case of Mrs. S, or that they’re simply watching a nonstop stream of porn, in the instance of my colleague Danny T. — but the truth is, there may be far more to the story.

Now, I’ve been too busy watching a nonstop stream of porn to do any in-depth studies on this myself. (Hey, it’s the end of the year. Cut your virtual doc some slack.) Luckily, though, one of my fellow scientists has some interesting insight on the matter.

Chat Status and PersonalityDr. Pamela Rutledge, an expert from the Media Psychology Research Center in Las Vegas, has been studying the psychology of the chat status for some time. (Who knew people in Vegas studied anything other than booze and booty?) Her finding: There’s often more to your status than meets the eye.

“Away messages vary … depending upon whether the chat account is used for business or personal, but all messages display shades of personality,” Rutledge contends.

So what’s your chat status say about you? Here’s what Rutledge found about the various instant messaging extremes:

  • Always green: You’re a narcissist, or at the very least, an extreme extrovert. “Extroverts and narcissists always want to be available even if they’re not,” Rutledge says.
  • Chat Away Message

  • Always away/busy: You’re an introvert who needs personal boundaries. “Introverts keep their away message up all the time because the people who know them know they might be there even if the status indicator says they are away,” Rutledge explains. “On the other hand, if the introvert doesn’t want to answer, he/she can claim they really were away.”
  • Always invisible: You are a power-hungry fool. And possibly a stalker. “Invisible is for eavesdropping in a stealth and stalker kind of way,” Rutledge suggests. “It’s … kind of a power trip.”

As far as the away message itself, Rutledge says most content — aside from a basic “be back soon” — is really about how someone wants to be perceived. If you post song lyrics as your status, for example, you probably want everyone to think you’re incredibly sensitive (and not at all into rough, bondage-heavy intercourse).

Don’t think we’re fooled, though — your friendly neighborhood doc sees right through those cheesy John Mayer quotes. With that being said, my body is a wonderland; thank you for mentioning it.


Busy, invisible, or away —
They’re all just little games we play.
Behind the status is the real hard truth
About who is cool, and who’s just a douche.

Until next time,

Dr. Smartass

(Hamster typing image courtesy of Photobucket’s pamr1384.)

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