Instant Messaging (IM) gap

December 8, 2006

CNN has a story about the “IM gap” between teenagers and adults. The story is based on a poll by AP-AOL, as well as some “soundbites” from an adult and a teenager whose thoughts reflect the poll’s findings.

The views of Dr. Steve Jones and Dr. Naomi Barron are interesting as well. The article quotes Dr. Jones as saying that it is “remarkable” that teens can keep many IM conversations going simultaneously, while Dr. Barron has concerns that students are focusing on quantity of conversations, rather than quality. (Her use of the word “customer” is rather interesting. Are friends and family now considered “customers” in a fast-paced online world?) While Dr. Barron’s concerns seem obvious, it’s hard to tell if Dr. Jones is damning with faint praise the IM agility of teens. If anyone is familiar with the work of Dr. Jones or Dr. Barrons, please provide some insight in “Comments.”

Aside from using the QuestionPoint virtual reference service to field student questions, I do not use IM or chat services. I will use IM if required, but I prefer to work on my computer with minimal external distractions. If I want to concentrate on something, constantly seeing pop-up windows can be annoying. In that case, simply ignoring the pop-ups is not an option, because it seems rather rude. I also believe that if someone needs to discuss something urgent with me, I will receive a phone call (as the article points out towards its conclusion) or an e-mail tagged with an “urgent” icon. If someone wants to alert me to something that is not urgent, I will receive an e-mail and send a carefully-crafted response at my leisure.

Well, “leisure” in the relative sense.


2 Responses to “Instant Messaging (IM) gap”

  1. Amber Lynn Says:

    I think IM is over-hyped in the library world. In my view, it seems as though it could create a “fast food” mentality in our patrons’ minds. In other words, they can get an answer instantly, but what is the quality of the answer? Also, just because librarians use a (relatively) new technology does not make it the right thing to do. We need to make sure it is implemented in a thoughtful, user-centered manner. And, no, “user-centered” does not mean patrons are the center of the universe, as they seem to be inclined to think… it means services should be designed with their needs in mind.

  2. Jason Says:

    The finer points of defining “user-centered” sound quite useful in discussing IM. In fact, one could apply it to the broader issue of college students developing a “customer service” mentality. But that’s a topic for another blog… maybe even several.

    As Dr. Barron seems to imply in the CNN article, Amber Lynn brings up the issue of quality in IM conversations. I suppose they have their place, but I don’t see any serious advantage in using IM. In my opinion, telephones are quite adequate for “real time” conversations, while e-mail seems useful for online correspondence. Perhaps this demonstrates that IM is actually rather redundant, or that we need to develop a technology that improves on IM.

    Right now, webcams sound like the best substitute for IM. One can have a real conversation online and actually see the person with whom they are speaking. My 76-year-old father visited my wife and I during the holiday, and he thought it was “the nuts.” He also added that, unlike phone conversations, “you don’t have to spend a dime.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: