Making A Statement, In Absentia

from the instant-messaging-culture dept

My instant messaging product of choice is Yahoo’s instant messenger, which is a bit buggy, but seems to be the most popular among my friends. It has a “status message” feature that lets you put a very short “status” next to your name, and some people I know seem to spend an awful lot of time carefully crafting and changing their status messages. Some of them are designed to inform. Some of them play off of others’ messages (which can get confusing if you don’t have all the associated people on your buddy list), and some are clearly designed to get a reaction or a response. However, I’ve never seen anyone talking about the whole “status message culture” until this NY Times article that focuses on how college students view their AOL instant messenger “Away Messages” as being a very important part of their personality. Some students spend hours reading all their friends’ away messages – and there’s something of an art to people trying to come up with good or entertaining away messages. Of course, I think Yahoo’s implementation has AOL’s beat, here, since with Yahoo you can see the status messages just by looking at your buddy list. AIM requires you to click on each friend’s name, which seems time consuming. Still, it’s yet another aspect of instant messaging culture, and how “presence” info can change how you interact with others in ways you might not have imagined.

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Comments on “Making A Statement, In Absentia”

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Chris (user link) says:

No Subject Given

I have no “idle” or “away from the computer” messages at all, and I have a 24 X 7 connection. Where I physically am at any given point of time is not anybody elses’s business. When somebody doesn’t answer the telephone you don’t know if they are there and ignoring it, or just not there to answer. I use AIM the same way. The “Chris you there?” messages serve as an AIM answering machine and I get back to them on my terms. I find the concept of “presence management” to be a bit creepy.

Brandon (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Frankly, I’d hate that. I use multiple computers, I don’t want someone leaving me an important “message” on IM on my computer at work that I won’t see until monday. Email is the right place for that.

Knowing that someone is probably there is useful, in that IM is supposed to be this relatively real-time thing. That person can still choose not to answer.


Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Both of these are good points, but miss the overall point. It’s not about actually telling people where you are or using them as an “answering machine”. It’s more about the outbound nature of it. Using the status/away message to present some information about yourself.

I think that aspect can be pretty powerful.

Duffman says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

I have people on my buddy list who use their screen name and away messages to coordinate their social lives, even telling others to change their names and messages if they see the message in time. Course, these people are the same age as the kids in the article – grew up in high school with IM.

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