Instant messenger chats
Instant messengers are programmes which allow you to receive and send the equivalent of e-mails almost instantaneously while both parties are online. Effectively, they allow online chats via text, voice, webcam, and the sending of files. There are also broadcasting and conferencing facilities, i.e. multi-way conversations.
Some instant messengers installed on your computer start up as soon as you are connected to the Internet. So you can immediately see from the list who else is online. This can give you a reassuring feeling that you are not alone, until you see the name of someone you want to hide from.
When I first got introduced to AOL messenger, I would "hit" on a friend on my list. "Hi there, how are you?" I'd say. It's like walking into a room and finding somebody you know. It's natural to say hello, and unnatural to ignore the person's online presence.
After awhile, I learned that people appear not because they are available to chat but for a number of other reasons. They might be waiting for someone else (not you). They might not realise they appear to be "available" on the instant messenger. In other words, just because their status is set on "available" doesn't mean they really are available.
Instant messengers could be a good thing for speeding up textual communication via e-mail. For people who type fast and respond fast, it could be even better than telephone calls. However, it could also work the other way due to the speed of response and the lack of facial expression and body language to complement the intended message.
In a textual message, there are no clues to the environment, the situation, and the tone of voice which might be loaded with meaning. And unless the participants in an instant messenger conversation are very familiar to each other, the session's effectiveness could be questionable.
I get annoyed when I receive an instant message that interrupts my flow of thought and seemingly serves no purpose. "What does he want?" I seethe. "What now?"
I have engaged in instant messenger conversations that spiralled out of control. I found myself getting more and more annoyed in the course of the conversation. In such situations, typically the messages get shorter and the frequency of messages increases ---- molto staccato, accelerando, crescendo till one person signs off.
On the flip side, I always find it a treat to see someone I am fond of online. It's kind of like running into your favourite person at a restaurant. It's hard to resist from saying hello.
9 December 2003 Tuesday