Instant Messaging: good or bad?
04-05-2006, 02:55 PM
Instant Messaging: good or bad?
what to think of this? does instant messaging have adverse psychological effects on us? less human contact?
Fade Away; Students use online messaging to communicate quickly, craft identity
Matt Kanewske leaves his computer and AOL Instant Messenger running almost 24 hours a day. While it seems he's chatting and keeping in touch with old friends, he actually spends most of his time idle.
"I leave it on all day usually, just out of the sheer hope that somebody will IM me," said Kanewske, a junior architecture major.
AIM, the most popular messaging service, is free for anyone with access to the Internet and allows users to communicate with each other in real time. And not only has it made communication more convenient, but it has also changed the way some students perceive their relationships and identify themselves.
"Everyone I know has a screen name and uses AIM," said Sean Hyland, a freshman speech communications major.
Many users stay online for days at a time, keeping a constant channel open to their family and friends.
"It's so much easier than calling someone on their cell phone," said Jacqueline Case, a junior design major. "People are in the rooms and busy writing papers. With AIM, it's changed the way people talk."
When they're not actively using their computers, many use AIM as a mailbox where friends can leave direct messages.
"I'm idle 98 percent of the time," Kanewske said. "I don't really use it to chit-chat."
For some, however, it isn't the ability to personally communicate with people that draws them to AIM - it's the fact that they don't have to.
One of the many features of AIM and similar services is the ability to leave away messages, automated responses that allows users to remind their buddies where they are or what they're doing. Messages can range anywhere from the simple "I am away from my computer right now" to jokes, quotations and specific details about daily routines.
"It annoys me when people change their away message every 15 minutes," said Laura McClain, a sophomore retail management and marketing major. "I'm in the shower, I'm drying off, I'm blow drying my hair."
For many, the away message is a way of expressing an online identity. Their particular mood will be reflected in the away message they put up.
"Usually it's however I'm feeling at the moment," Olsen said. "It's a way of expressing yourself so you don't have to deal with everyone. If I'm having a bad day, people can read my away message and know not to bother with me."
There are a few in the realm of instant messaging who take this concept to the extreme - and the away message becomes a hall of fame of quotes and debauchery.
"If you make it into some of our friends' away messages it's a really big deal," Case said. "You had to have done something really funny or impressive to make it in there."
Away messages have become such a popular staple of everyday life that some people will waste hours perusing their buddy list in search of interesting messages.
"I pretty much read them just to pass the time while I'm doing other stuff," said Matt Duggan, a junior architecture major. "It gives me something to do."
"I'm not proud of it, but I read away messages," said Matt Wilcofsky, a freshman communications science major.
For a deeper look into a buddy's inner sanctum, the personal profile comes into play. Many users will include some of their most intimate feelings in the form of song lyrics or personal quotations.
"Your profile is like a self-explanation," Olsen said. "It explains you. Just by clicking on 'check buddy icon' you can tell how someone's day or entire week was."
OUT OF TOUCH
In a digital world where people are sending text messages back and forth instead of physically communicating, some wonder what psychological effect this might have on AIM users.
"People need each other," said Larry Elin, associate professor of television, radio and film. "We need the company of others to be complete."
While many might argue that AIM has revolutionized the way in which people connect to one another, that may not be the case.
"People have been sending instant messages in real time since the telegraph was invented," said Patricia Hirl Longstaff, an associate professor of television, radio and film. "It's a mistake in what it means to be connected. Communication between human beings is more than pitching data."
The back and forth of text messages that ensues during an AIM conversation can have its limitations - elements like sarcasm are difficult to detect without voice inflection, and deeper discussions can be hard to maintain.
"Serious conversations involving a lot of emotions are hard to have on AIM," Case said. "Things are misunderstood all the time."
Despite the risk of losing touch with physical communication, the benefits of online communication remain abundant and clear.
"I don't call people as much. A lot of the time I'll just IM them," McClain said. "It's better because you can talk to a lot of people at the same time. It's more efficient."
"I would call my mother," Wilcofsky said. "But I know kids here who just talk to theirs online."
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