I’ve got a theory about Instant Messaging but in order to fully explore it, I need your help. I’d love to know how and when you use IM. A few questions to get you started:

How many times per day you have a conversation via IM? Do you hardly ever IM? Or do you find yourself having multiple conversations throughout the day? I’m also curious to know if those conversations are trivial or are they something you find integral to your day. Do you talk to friends, family, coworkers?

Anything you can tell me would be of great interest to me. Once I’ve got some feedback I’m going to post the results as well as talk a bit about my IM theory. Thanks in advance!

80 Comments on Instant Messaging — Your Take?

  1. Ron says:

    I use it for our afternoon status updates and discussions, as we have team members in many states. Its not really instant, as we schedule it, but as a collaboration tool its incredibly useful. Much better than a phone, as one can drop off the conversation to attend to research or data requests, thus letting the rest of the team return to work until you are done. This beats in person meetings, and phone meetings, where in multitasking results in missed communication ( and would be rude to boot)

    The phone has proven to be a terrible waste of money. Since we implemented IM meetings, our telco costs have dropped by 70%, we no longer need to have a secretary take notes, and most of the group can multitask and accomplish low workload end of the day tasks concurrent with our IM meetings. A real productivity booster.

    This is not to say that a voice meeting, or in person meetings are done away with, but instead occur once a month, instead of numerous times a week.

  2. Paul D says:

    For starters, I dislike instant messaging. It completely disrupts my work.

    That said, I use it with work clients and partners who like it, because it’s less disruptive than telephone calls. I have 1-2 conversations a day with it.

    I also use it occasionally (a few times a week) to chat with a few online-only friends.

  3. Ken says:

    I am a male. I find that IMing for work is very productive. Not so much in personal interactions where tone of voice, facial expression and other body language indicators are more important.
    I IM 2-5 times a day. Each session averaging about 25 messages.

  4. bliz says:

    I am male, 20. I use IM daily about 0-5 times. I usually use it to chat with my friends who are studying overseas. It’s cheaper than the phone and yet it confers the instant reply of the phone. My conversations are trivial half the time. Yes, I talk to my friends, family and coworkers. Not everyone I know uses gtalk or skype, otherwise i would be chatting with voice more often.

  5. I once scoffed at IM as being in the realm of teenagers, but I’ve found it to be a very useful communications tool. It’s enabled me to stay in touch with a couple of Navy buddies whom I probably would have drifted apart from. We all work computer related jobs, so we log on in the morning and chat throughout the day as our schedules permit. Most of it is social, although we do often trade professional advice. One of my frieds has completed the same degree that I’m working toward, so I’ll often ask him four advice about my courses.

    It’s also useful for my wife to IM me during the day to make plans. I actually wish more companies would embrace IM as a valuable communications tool.

  6. JaX says:

    I chat with at least half a dosen people every day. Most of my conversations are longwinded, and can last for hours on end. I use Trillian, but I only chat via the AIM plugin. I find that IM chats are not stressful, in compairison to phone conversations where I am obliged to keep up the conversation. My chats can be dropped and picked up without any loss in communication. I find that IM’s open up the internet for me. Instead of browsing being a personal activity, IM allows me to connect with my friends from all over the globe, and share my findings. It takes a solitary activity and makes it a group event.

  7. elv says:

    I don’t IM. I have an account on every major network, and even Miranda and Google Talk installed, but never use them – unless I need too.
    I just can’t work while an instant messenger beeps or flashes. I get disctracted very easily.
    I even turned off the sound notification for email because everytime a mail arrived I heard the beep and compulsively clicked on the icon :)

    I don’t know how people manage to chat AND work. I mean it’s like working with a TV turned on next to you, how can you not being distracted?

  8. Chad says:

    IMing used to be a bigger part of my life, back before I was married. I actually met my wife via Yahoo! Messenger and that’s how we stayed in contact with each other over the years of our friendship and eventual dating and engagement, since we lived about 1000 miles away from each other.

    Now, though, I don’t IM all that much, but I do have a lot of friends on AIM, so I usually have that logged on during the evening when I’m at home and usually a couple times a night I’ll have a conversation with a couple of them. Sometimes these conversations are long and in depth, sometimes its just a simple hello.

    My wife uses Trillian and uses it all the time to keep in contact with her family and friends back in Louisiana…so she IMs a lot more than I do.

  9. Alex Hutton says:

    I keep it on all the time, but use “away” frequently. I end up being somewhere between “Fraser” above and talkative. I’d use it more, but the people I report to have stopped using it regularly. It’s handy for the “quick question” and, to me, less intrusive than an intra-office phone call or visit to my desk. However, giving friends and family your work IM can be deadly to productivity.

    All in all it’s somewhere below the hype and email usefulness, but much better for me than some traditional means of communication.

  10. jack c says:

    i only really use IM in my spare time. at times i use it for work, like when working on a specific part of a project. otherwise, i just think it’s a waste of time.

    when i do use it in my spare time i usually talk to my family or friends. trivial topics i suppose – just the same as a telefone.

  11. Max Leibman says:

    About the only time I’ve ever seriously IMed, it was primarily to flirt. A handful of times in my cubicle-slave days, I used the company’s proprietary chat system; more often than not, however, we would just use Outlook or our webmail clients as a chat platform, sending reems of e-mail back and forth. About 30% was personal and trivial, 30% business and trivial, and 40% useful communication/discussion.

  12. David Graves says:

    When I first started using IM it was a complete waste of time and I used it constantly. I do think the novelty wears off after a while. I use it less and less as time goes on. One thing that is horrible with IM is that the conversations are so fragmented that it is easy to misinterpret what other people are writing at times. It is hard to set tone.

  13. Nilavan says:

    I normally use IM to chat with my friends who are spread over different places. I go on IM only when I have a purpose to meet someone. But end up chatting with anyone who shows up.. At times, end up spending couple of hours on issueless talks and things like that. IM for me is just like the normal converse..

  14. Vicki Brown says:

    The Company (that up until recently employed me) uses Jabber for internal communication. Jabber and Email are used much more than the telephone.

    At home Spouse and I have IM windows open all the time. He’s upstairs, I’m down, and we “chat” all day, sending notes and interesting links back and forth.

    I “chat” with my Dad (out of state) but Mom and sister use email. I chat with a friend in Texas (I’m in CA). Other friends are in my buddy list. We occaisionally chat.

    I don’t use IM to replace email but as a complement

  15. Tommy says:

    I work for a virtual company and engage in as least 20 IM conversations a day. There are times I view IM as a productivity enhancer, at other times I am not so sure.

    With that said, most of my fellow employees are good at using and respecting a meeting or DND status. Heck, we even use our IM status to know not only if someone is busy, but if they don’t want to be called.

    Generally speaking I find IM as an effective way to exchange quick tid bits of information. A URL. Phone number. A POC at a client. Stuff like that.

    For me, the phone is the real waster of time. At least w/ my fellow employees they tend to what to chat to much. I find myself saying “well I have to go” often throughout the course of the day.

  16. Marcelo Ruiz says:

    I used to IM really a lot!! I think the problem is that I started my “relation” with computers through Internet, email and chat, as many young people, so I was really used to have ICQ open all the time and “Free for chat” most of the time.
    Now, I only open it when I need it. I use it to chat with some clients, but usually agree the meeting time in advance by mail.
    Also, I only open Mail when I finish what I was doing.

  17. The Dude says:

    Well, I used instant messaging for a good 4 years. But eventually I got rid of it. It get’s annoying when you’re surfing a webpage, playing a game, just plain minding your business, and then out of nowhere a window pops up with someone saying “Hey!”. I mean, I don’t mind having conversations with people, but it gets annoying after awhile. Some people just always say ‘hi’ to you whenever they get online.

    I like to use IM as I would a phone. If I got something I need to ask someone, I’ll ask them, otherwise, I’ll just leave them alone.

    Anyways, I got rid of all of my instant messaging stuff for about a year. I ended up losing touch with basically all of my ‘internet friends’, and also lost touch with some real friends too. They only used IM and never used a phone or anything.

  18. GrumpySmurf says:

    I use Lotus Sametime for IM at work (company requirement) through a plugin for Trillian, which of course runs all my other chat mediums (ICQ AIM MSN Y!). Most of my communication during the day is through instant messaging. I use it for collaborating and communicating with teammates and other business groups, catching up with old and current friends, etc etc. I’m pretty much an IM junkie, really.

  19. Yzabel says:

    I tend to use it for work a lot, since I work from home most of the time, and it’s easier to keep contact this way than to wait for coworkers to weed through their 400 e-mails of the day to reach mine and finally answer.

    For personal use… well, the people I mostly use it with are my boyfriend when we’re both working, and 2-3 friends who live abroad and are harder to reach by phone. My parents have also got their connection installed a few weeks ago, but we don’t Im that often, as they’re still quite at unease with it and discovering the many wodners of the Web.

    Concersation windows… I’ll keep 2 going on at once; more than that, I find difficult to manage without not ending up doing only that. It indeed tends to get quickly distracting when doing something on the comp–and I’m never “just idling” on the comp waiting for people to come online and chat with them. I guess that’s why I’m in Busy, Away or Invisible modes most of the time, in fact.

  20. Jorgeq says:

    I generally log on to chat via my SideKick phone. At times I carry up to 4 conversations at once, which can become a bit overwhelming on a small device.

  21. Holly says:

    I use it infrequently.. 95 percent of the time it’s family memebers, most often my husband, to check in with him while he’s at work, see how he’s doing, send love notes, that sort of thing. He’s always busy at work (programmer/analyst) so I keep it short. Two of my three adult children have moved out, and I occasionally talk to them. FWIW I really dislike talking to people via IM that I don’t know IRL (in real life), and I keep the IM programs on 24/7 (DSL) but I also keep my status as invisible 24/7. The people who matter know that.

    The other five percent of the time, I’m talking to my long distance lover who lives about 400 miles away. Sometimes it’s naughty, sometimes it’s mundane. And yes, before anyone gets in an uproar, I’m polyamorous and my husband of ten years certainly knows about my sweetie of 24 years. Deal. IM keeps me sane and happy. :)

  22. Matt says:

    I chose IM names that let me colleagues know to keep it brief and professional (e.g. “ImWorking”).

  23. Jean says:

    I’ve only really started using IM this week, believe it or not. And not really as if I planned it – it just happened. All the conversations have been business related and way more efective and productive than email.

  24. Rachel C says:

    I’m about to write up a paper regarding my IM study I did with students using IM for educational purposes (tutoring, help support services etc).

  25. I use IM all of the time. I’m in a long distance relationship so my girlfriend and i use it alot. Whenever i’m online i leave it open, and am usually chatting with someone who is aiding me with some sort of coding problem that i’ve run into.

    I actually wish that more of my friends and family used some sort of IM client. This way, it would be much easier to communicate seeing as i dont always have the time or energy for the telephone.

  26. Can you please get rid of, or tell me what to do. This buddy thing is on my e-mails, is in with my favourites etc. lIST of areas where I can look on up something quickly. Would also give me a lot more room on the toolbar.

    This PC is for work not play. Do not have the time for muck around with this kid’s site.


  27. jhon says:

    nice to meet u

  28. jhon says:

    love is life

  29. jhon says:

    very nice messenger

  30. Ryan says:

    I mostly use IM to keep in touch with distant friends. While at work, use of IM is usually restricted only to work related conversations.

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