Friday, March 26, 2004

Instant Messaging Just Can't Cut It

It is my personal opinion that instant messaging, be it via MSN, AIM, ICQ, or whatever your chat client of choice is, happens to be the worst form of communication. It’s not completely worthless, because it does serve a purpose for certain tasks, but for the most part, any type of decent communication is simply stifled by the way instant messaging works.

First, instant messaging leaves out so much in comparison to verbal speech. In comparison to a spoken sentence, a typed message on IM contains no voice inflection, no tone, and no context beyond previous sentences. The reader is left to attempt to infer any details that the author of the statement may have wished to include in the message. For example, I may send an IM that says, “Is that ok?” From that statement alone, it is completely ambiguous as to how I meant to express that statement. Even with the context of the conversation that may have been taking place, this statement could be taken as an actual question, a rhetorical question, a sarcastic remark, or any number of other expressions. I, as the author of the statement, have no way of expressing to the recipient how I intend the statement to be taken.

That last statement is actually a little misleading. I could actually, with words, attempt to convey the exact way that I meant every statement to be taken. For example, I could have said, “This is an interrogative question that I wish for you to answer. No malice or sarcasm is present. Is that ok?” Now, if we were to do that for every sentence in an IM conversation, it would takes hours to discuss almost anything. Because of this, instant messaging should not be used for any types of conversations that involve anything complicated or for use in a debate. IM’s only strong point is that it is good for quick asking a question, finding out a small piece of information, or letting someone know your status. These types of statements do not usually require the added nuances that a debate or deep conversation requires.

More often than not, a debate that takes place on IM is destined to fail simply because it is so hard to articulate exactly what you want to say. Also, even when you can articulate what you want to say, if the other party misinterprets the way in which it is said, much of the following conversation will simply be used to try to make reparations for the misinterpretations. While making reparations, the door for developing even more misunderstandings is wide open. Once you step through that door, your initial conversation is, in effect, over.

The unfortunate fact that underlies everything I have stated so far is that as bad as instant messaging is, it is often a necessary evil. Sometimes it is hard to keep in contact with someone outside of the use of IM. I absolutely abhor having to use instant messaging as a communication tool for actual conversations because of the aforementioned inadequacies, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

Oh, for those of you who are curious to know how the tv buying came out, I decided upon a JVC 56” widescreen HDTV. I brought it home on Tuesday night. The thing barely fit in through the door it was so huge. Watching movies and playing Xbox on it is simply amazing. Everything is so…big. It’s also so clear. Unlike projection tvs of old, these new HDTV ones are unbelievably clear. No longer can you see all of the individual scan lines. Everything is crystal clear and pretty. I love it!

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