It took me a while to like instant messenger. As an introvert, I despise the phone unless I am talking to someone whose voice I really want to hear, so I love email. Email offers a wonderful moment to think, even if I click Reply almost instantly. I find it much easier to answer in text than verbally, and I think most introverts are with me on that. However, about ten years ago friends started asking me if I was on instant messenger. At first I had this terrible vision of having to sit by the computer all evening while we sent messages back and forth, so I said no. No way.
Soon we all got IM accounts in the office though, and I added all my fellow IT guys to my contacts. I loved being able to quietly IM the guy across the aisle from me when something funny happened or just to talk anytime we wanted. It was still instant messenger to me though, so I hated it the day some of my company’s IT people in another city added me to their contacts. Now I would have to instantly answer all of their questions instead of having the merciful delay that email offers? Hated it. I thought I had to answer immediately anytime someone could see that I was there. I’d be trying to think and there it would be, that jarring sound and flashing window, flashing until I do something about it.
But for one thing, we are not required to let it show that we are really there, are we? I have one friend who always appears “Available.” He may be totally gone – on an errand, asleep, anything, but he is “Available” 24/7 and may or may not respond. Likewise I have another friend who is always “Away” and still another who is always “Busy.” Both of them enjoy the fact that no one sees them become “Available” and start hammering them with messages. They have the buffer zone we introverts need so much. I currently let my own status show to everyone, because I have finally discovered a secret no one tells nice introverts: Just because someone IMs you doesn’t mean you have to answer them immediately (or at all).
I’ve been in another city at an all day meeting, and at the end of the day we all still had messages waiting for us, but what did we do? We turned off our laptops and went to dinner! I’ve been in my own office about to reply to a message but my boss came and talked for a while then maybe we went to another room. So what happened? I did not reply to the message until much later. No one got mad at me and the world did not end. So now, I definitely use IM, and I don’t feel stress when someone IMs me. I’d much rather they do that than to have it escalate to a phone call or worse still, the energy-draining walk-up. You may hate IM as an interruption, and I know a lot of introverts do, but I wanted to share with you how the introverts I know manage those interruptions by either not showing their status or simply not worrying about it if they do get a message. It’s not as instant as a phone call, so like anything else that gives me a little time before I have to respond, I’m all for it.
Nowadays I actually keep in touch with former coworkers by keeping them in my IM contacts. When one of us sees a link we want to show the other, or when we just want to tell the other person something, there’s so much less barrier to sending a quick instant message than to composing a full email. I think that’s how I’ve remained in such good contact with a wide variety of people. And remember, I got my current job by talking on instant messenger to the guy who would once again become my boss.
What’s your preferred method of communication? Do you like or hate instant messenger? Of course we are going to have to talk about Twitter and Facebook soon!
Photo credit: thomcochrane