I only want to chat with YOU
April 29, 2014 11:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an IM client that lets you appear "invisible" to some people and not others. Does this exist?

I often want to appear "invisible" to all but a few people on chat. I don't want random friends/co-workers/etc. to know that I'm available and send me friendly messages or seemingly quick questions that I find distracting when I'm concentrating.

However, there are certain people that I would like to appear available to if I'm actually there so that they can reach me in an emergency, for details on an important project, etc.

I can't seem to find an IM client that will let me designate status by person. I mostly use Gchat or Skype. I don't want to use Facebook.

If this is impossible, what are some good workarounds? Doesn't everyone else need to do this too?
posted by 3491again to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Set yourself as invisible when you log in to your chat client of choice but begin a chat with the people you'd like to talk to, indicating you're around but invisible. They'll come to know you're probably lurking and invisible and so they might start an "offline" chat with you if they need, which can be punted to email. That's how ... people I know do it.
posted by sweltering at 11:59 PM on April 29, 2014

A chat can be punted to email if it turns out you're actually offline, I mean. Carry on, introverts of the world.
posted by sweltering at 12:01 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

One simple workaround would be to create a separate account that you only give out to those few people you're interested in allowing to contact you for emergency/important stuff, then you can just sign off your general purpose account when you don't want to be disturbed. This way those people (who will presumably have your regular account info too) will even be able to tell you're in "do not disturb unless it's important" mode just by looking at your main account's status.

(The reason you won't find a client that lets you set visibility by contact is that your current status is held by a central server that broadcasts it to anyone that asks; your client software has no say in who sees what.)
posted by contraption at 12:08 AM on April 30, 2014

Yeah, I think the way most people handle this is by having most of their friends chatting with them on AccountA and then they also log in AccountB, which only the closer friends/family have. Alternately, I know at least a few people who specifically prefer to get texted if they're not on IM and assume that only the important people will have their phone numbers and be willing to do that. It is, however, difficult in either case to deal with someone who used to be a vital person and is now less close.
posted by Sequence at 12:12 AM on April 30, 2014

Response by poster: Amazing that this feature doesn't exist.

I usually can't do the Account A and Account B thing because who I want to contact me changes frequently. And there are a lot of projects so I'd be signing in and out very frequently.

You guys are sure there's no app anywhere, mobile, iOS, client, whatever that can do this? I'd be happy to pay, join a whole new service and invite people, or whatever it takes.
posted by 3491again at 1:00 AM on April 30, 2014

Well, I noticed the other day that Facebook chat was giving me the option to only be visible to certain people.

I handle this, though, by just letting the few people that I want to be available to as much as possible know that I never show as available on IM. If they need me, they ping me and if I'm around and available I answer.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:07 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

What are some good workarounds?

I know people that set the client to show that they're always active, 24/7. Then they just ignore the chats they don't want to respond to immediately. If a lot of people do this, it does erode the expectation of immediacy. This can be a good thing depending on how many chats you are dealing with.
posted by ryanrs at 1:44 AM on April 30, 2014

Yahoo messenger does this. You can appear offline to some and not others.
posted by Admira at 2:21 AM on April 30, 2014

Yes, what Admira says. Yahoo Messenger has "Stealth Settings" which can be set differently for all your contacts.
posted by tomboko at 4:39 AM on April 30, 2014

Yup. Yahoo IM does this.
The big downside, of course, is that YIM is not a multi-service messenger. It's Yahoo-only.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:06 AM on April 30, 2014

Facebook lets you enable and disable chat for different people.

For the services that don't, I just sign in as "green" 24/7 and ignore chats I don't want to respond to immediately.
posted by katrielalex at 5:09 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Facebook chat definitely lets you do this - at the bottom of your friend list, you can edit which friends EXACTLY can see you online. You can change this as often as you want.

On Gmail chat, I sign on as "busy", then only chat to those I want to.
posted by shazzam! at 5:37 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been so long since I used it so I'm a bit hesitant to say, Trillian does this.
posted by redindiaink at 6:19 AM on April 30, 2014

I use both Facebook and Gmail chat and keep myself as invisible permanently. I just message the people I want to talk to when I'm ready to chat. It's fine as long as you don't mind being the one to initiate conversations. As an added bonus, people are never bothered if I take a long time to reply.
posted by considerspace at 7:13 AM on April 30, 2014

Miranda IM does this. It's a great little client that can be used with a whole lot of different protocols. I've been using it for over ten years and it may be my favourite piece of software ever.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2014

Response by poster: Too-Ticky: Miranda IM is just Windows, right? I couldn't find the Mac version.
posted by 3491again at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2014

I think it's just for Windows but honestly I'm not sure, sorry. Didn't know you were looking for software for a Mac. I don't know the first thing about those.

Everyone else who needs this may just be using Windows ;-)
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:24 AM on April 30, 2014

Srsly now: maybe Fire or Adium have the options you're looking for?
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2014

I would have suggested Adium as well (it's a fantastic multi-service messenger) but, beginning last month, something changed on Yahoo's end, and Adium cannnot connect with Yahoo anymore. There's a long thread about this over at Cocoa Forge. The Adium devs seem to have thrown-up their hands and given up rectifying the problem.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 AM on May 3, 2014

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