Kenneth Rohde Christiansen

The life and feelings of an individual not like the most.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The advantages and disadvantages of IM services

I thought a bit more about IM services and whether it is generally better not to use or not. I have come to the conclusion that IM is very good for on/off conversations, but it doesn't really scale to real conversations - at least not with people you really care about.

Instant Messaging is good for
  • Arranging meetings
  • Just saying hi and quickly telling the latest news
  • Working on something together that requires internet access
So, why is this? Well, the first two points doesn't really require you to be 100% present - or at least just for a short period. The reason why I find that IM doesn't scale to real conversations is that you are always multitasking when you are at the computer. It is just so tempting to open a web browser the first second someone is not saying anything; to answer others on the chat, browse your music collection to find a nice song... etc.

I wondered why I don't get irritated when I talk over the phone and I came to the conclusion that I actually do sometimes! And this is when I am sitting close to the computer - I answer people on MSN, quickly check my e-mail, the news, etc and for a few seconds I don't pay attention and I end up getting irritated with the one I am talking to! and don't really feel like talking. This is exactly the same that happens with instant messaging - you are never there 100% for the one you are talking to, at least not for a longer time.

IM though, does have its advantages. If you are cooperating and need to study internet pages, read PDF's etc, it is great! You sent each other links or files and you both read quietly and answer/ask when you have time - without expecting an immediate answer. This works a lot better than two sitting at the same computer.

I guess the answer is that if you really want to talk to someone and have a nice conversation, then you should make a special IM account with only that person and try not doing other things at the same time. Actually, I wonder very much why the popular services don't have an option like: "Show as Offline to everybody except to the people I am currently having conversations with".


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