A year ago I wrote "Language is power in MMOs" (MMO Language as a Power-up). Recently Ross Mayfield (Many2Many) extended this with ideas on Social Verbs. He concludes a pull model of attention management is better than a push-based model as such would be based on interruptions that won't scale in social software. Furthermore, asynchronous interaction empowers users with choice and ability to control their pace. Kaye Vivian (Dove Lane, Nov. 23) suggests that social verbs provide low-risk means of exploring social contact.
Another thought here involves the value of protocol to establish the structure by which we can push back and take action while minimizing social risk (e.g. in turn-based systems, ref. Is Love and War Turn-based). Dramatically, "Sorry, I really had to invade..." Or more opportunistically, how the expectation of a "thank you" after a gift exposes another moment for conversation.
I also found myself the other night musing upon the "Need vs. Greed" dialog window in WoW...
This pop-up dialog interrupts. In so doing, however, it establishes a process by which party members can gently assert their interest in treasure that comes the party's way. Each and every member is asked whether they want the item at all. If so they are asked if their want is driven by Need or Greed. The golden rule for loot allocation is: "need before greed."
This dialog window - by way of its annoying claim to screen real-estate - compels an answer: players must choose. It also provides a fig-leaf behind which the individual can assert their interest at the expense of others but without having to make strong claims to the group. Push for pull.
It seems we need those spaces created by structure to minimize our risk (as individual) for action within the group. Sometimes that /wave or /dance (in emote terms) may be just the break required to open up new contact. More often not. Yet because there were few risks (or costs), we /jump at it.