The medium is the instant message

About 10 years ago I was introduced to the delights of Instant Messenger by a team of American colleagues when it was relatively new and rarely used in Europe. I took to it instantly, if you will forgive my choice of adverb. I can’t be alone in finding it a useful way to compare notes or check facts with team-members during formal conference calls.

Recently the boot was on the other foot. Usually the call is the main deal and chat just supplements it, but this time it was the other way round. I was pinged by someone who hadn’t been updated with the latest departmental news; while we were typing back and forth I realised I needed to be certain what was public domain information and what was still under wraps. The obvious person to check this with was on the road so I rang them.

A decidedly odd inversion.

So… instant messaging… love it or loathe it?

7 responses to “The medium is the instant message

  1. Love it ! It’s a great way of conversing with someone you meet online without having to telephone them, which just feels a bit too stalkerish.

    Like a half way point between chatting on message boards and actually ringing each other.

    I’m sure I would never have several friendships if it wasn’t for IM.

  2. Like it, with reservations. I am naturally easily distracted, so new chat messages can be a disaster for me. Just as I am getting my thoughts together on a new project plan or draft presentation, a new message will appear like the Man from Porlock and *boom* I’m back to the drawing board.

    I find that if the chat goes on too long, it makes far more sense to pick up the phone and just talk to the other person.

    On the other hand, it seems to be less intrusive overall than a phone call – I find people are more inclined to answer a chat than to answer a phone, so it has it’s place.

  3. I love it, but no longer use it much.

    When I was using it, I found that my typing speed was JUST a bit slower than my thinking speed, so stuff could just flow in a way verbal communication can’t. In IM, there’s no er… and I um… etc. The thought is formed and flows through to the fingers complete and perfect.

    It helps to be able to type pretty fast and accurately. (I got a probably entirely unattractive warm glow of satisfaction when someone once asked me during a chat if I somehow had a spellchecker built into my IM client, and I was able to say no, I just type that fast and don’t make mistakes…)

    For me it’s one of the best modes of communication there is, partly because the rules are still evolving and you can develop them with your interlocutors as you’re going along. For instance, I and those I spoke with quickly developed the idea that if someone is telling a story a line at a time, it’s polite to occasionally interject simply to indicate that you’re still paying attention. e.g.
    Alice>I went to the shops the other day, and omg
    Alice>Could not believe it. There were these two people, ordinary looking people.
    Alice>At least that’s what I thought.

    At this point, Bob’s ellipsis indicates “I’m still here, I’m paying attention, have nothing to add but want to reassure you I’ve not dropped my dialup connection (remember those?) or simply tootled off away from the keyboard out of boredom”.

    It’s also a rather wonderful form of conversation with good friends because you can liberally sprinkle it not only with references to things, as one might in verbal conversation, but with actual weblinks to those things.

    It can also be an intensely intimate form of communication, allowing one to break down otherwise awkward social barriers very quickly. It’s no coincidence that both my current and previous relationships are/were with people who gave good IM.

    • OI’ve not used IM for a while apart from trying to contact HMS overseas where they have very little Internet connection which is ridiculous. Google talk enables chit chat online. I have Googlewave but not sure what to do with it. But I felt the same about Twitter and now my job relies on it.

  4. Brian McCafferty

    Love It! Used it when I was a teenager lots and in my old job it was not used in my department only IT and now in my new job everyone uses it (We us lotus notes for email and it has sametime built in) and I love it.

    You can quickly and easily get info from everyone and see if someone is at there desk or not.

    I would be lost without it now!

  5. Like it, surely. Oddly enough, I’m not “on” privately much anymore. Workwise, I’m on the Sametime wagon as well.

    Saw a video of Google Wave – they’re taking the instant to another level. No more “X is typing” – the characters are flying across as they’re typed…

  6. Well, we’re a biased sample I guess. 😀

    Thanks all, for dropping by and commenting.



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