On a recent trip to Seattle to hang the boys, I was completely floored when the topic instant messaging etiquette came up and EVERYONE agreed that I was an instant messaging prick. The basic complaint being that, “You never know when the conversation begins or ends with you… You jump in and jump out with zero pleasantries.”
That’s right. I do. Ain’t changing.
First, let me say that I’m a tremendous fan of instant messaging. Been so for years. At 12:05 on a Sunday afternoon, there are 20 people active on my buddy list with another 106 on the inactive list. When I started the new management gig, my introduction email to the team read something like, “Hi, I’m Rands and here’s my AIM account – I’m always on it which means you can always talk to me.”
Second, in the spectrum of communication mediums, instant messaging is unique because, duh, it’s instant. This is good if you happen to urgently want a piece of information from someone, but it’s bad if you’re the person who has the information and does not want to give it. For me, the keyword in that previous statement is “urgent” – instant messaging, during the business day, is for urgent communications. What I’m saying when I send that “Did you look at bug #2173148?” is that “I really need to know about this right now.” If I didn’t think it was urgent, I would have sent an email.
Third, and last, I really respect your time. I’m generally a fairly polite guy which means I was confused when the Seattle crew called me an instant messaging clod. What they didn’t understand (and you now do) is that by not say the equivalent of “hello” and “good bye”, I’m actually trying to save you time. I’m not trying to have a personal interaction and, if I did, I’d pick up the phone and call you.
(ps. I debated throwing my instant messaging ID in here, but that seems like a “bad idea”… if you’d like to instant message, drop me a line and I’ll set you up.)
UPDATE: After staring at my instant messaging habits for the better part of a week, it’s readily apparent that there is a generational gap between my usage of IM and a lot of other folks. As indicated above, my interactions are brief, to the point, and often considered rude.
The gap is this: There is a generation behind me which really finds it A-OK to have a personal inteaction via IM. This is great, it makes the world a smaller place, but it’s not for me. A large majority of the people in my buddy list are folks who, at some point, I’ve had personal contact with. I don’t tend (keyword: tend) to form new relationships via IM/IRC/forums/etc.
This odd because I am child of the BBS days of the 80s where a majority of my social interaction came from online discussions. Hmmm… wonder when that changed.