Friday, April 4, 2008

Instant Messaging for Introverts

Joe Kissell:

From time to time, someone I know asks me an ordinary and reasonable question: “What’s your iChat (or Skype) ID?” My usual reply is to give them the information along with a big disclaimer: I’m almost never logged in. In fact, let me be completely honest and say I thoroughly dislike instant messaging (IM) except in a few specific situations. For months, I’ve been thinking about why this is—both the technological and psychological aspects—along with whether it somehow exposes a fundamental character flaw, and whether it’s something I should attempt to change. Having experimented with a variety of approaches to instant messaging (as well as its close relative Twitter) and having done a considerable amount of introspection, I’m inclined to think that my personality type is fundamentally ill-suited to instant messaging.

As another introvert who doesn’t like IM, I find the multitasking aspect most bothersome.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

I’m not obligated to respond to people in real time, even if their communication methods allow it. This seems to be the crux of the Love IM / Hate IM faction divide.

For some people, phones and email and IM are not tools for communications, but instead for socializing. These people expect me to accept a tacit obligation to spend real-time on them simply because I receive their communication.

Screw that. I am not obligated to socialize because I’m a victim of a phone call, email, or IM.

IM is an excuse to bug people in real-time about thoughts that are not worth collecting into an email message. It should not be used as a replacement for email. “Doctor Watson, come here, I need you.” If I spill acid on myself and IM is faster than a phoen call, that’s a damn fine reason to IM someone.

Email is an excuse to say things you can’t say in person. It should be used as a replacement for the fax, not the telephone. If you can’t tell me something over the phone, send it to me in email. Give me that statistics table, or that legal document; don’t ask me if I want to come to your party.

Email is hard enough when people decide that having an email address obligates me to respond within a day, or at least a few days. Sometimes it takes me a week to answer an email. I figure if it’s important, they’ll call me (as they should have done in the first place for an important issue).

The telephone is for contacting people who are too inconvenient to visit. Yet having a working phone doesn’t obligate me to respond in real-time to someone else’s agenda. Some days I stop answering the phone because I don’t want to answer to anyone but myself. And yes, that word choice is intentional.

Leave a Comment