Don’t IM Me, I’ll IM You
It’s been a little bit quiet over here, but that’s mainly due to a bum finger. (Yes, I’m still trying to get back into full typing mode.) In the meantime, enjoy this piece I wrote for the now defunct Anti-Social Networking blog that I co-wrote with the Slackmistress, Felicia Sullivan, and Sevenlies.
Talking. It’s overrated and compiles 60% of my job. Naturally by the time I get home I don’t want to talk to anyone for a couple of hours. It’s a quick hello to whoever is in the house and then I’m watching the Food Network or taking an early peek at [adult swim]’s weekend lineup. If you call me between the hours of 5PM and 7PM I let it go to voicemail. My mom thinks I’m being rude, but I pay for voicemail and I’m going to use it as I damn well please.
The best way to get my attention these days is to text me. (I would say IM or email, but my neighbors found out that I was “borrowing” their wifi and am reduced to sharing the PC with my dad for the internet. Hopefully TimeWarner [ha!] will come out and remedy this quickly, as the modem doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with my router.) And that’s actually my preferred method of communication. I would much rather type out an email to another hotel for room rates than pick up the phone and speak with the GM’s secretary or the Director of Front Office.
I used to love calling people up for a quick chat or to catch up with a friend, especially after high school graduation. If we did catch each other online, one would type “Hey, I’m gonna call you in about 5 minutes so we can talk.” It totally made more sense that way: I talked much faster than I typed. I would say that IMs and emails were only 30% of my chosen form of communication.
My European History AP teacher once said that instant messaging was taking us backwards, that instead of talking to people in person or over the phone we chose to be like primitive man with symbols in the shape of emoticons. I scoffed at that. We’d still talk to people over the phone. Instant messaging was just a cheaper way to talk to relatives in other countries.
But one day the house two doors down from mine from me proved me wrong.
My neighbor and her sister used to IM each other but were sitting across from each other. One would be in the kichen on her laptop and the other would be in the dining room, which was smack next door without any walls inbetween them! Instead of opening her mouth to ask for ice cream, one sister would IM the other with her request. The other sister would get up and go to the freezer, scoop out some vanilla, and place the dish next to her sibbling. And I was inbetween them, taking advantage of their HBO connection from the spare shabby chic armchair.
At the time I thought it was funny. They were silently communicating with each other but yelling out to answer their mom when she asked what our plans were later in the evening. It seemed too silly IM someone when they were right next to you!
Then it happened: I got an apartment with a gay friend and our bedrooms were separated by the living room and the kitchen. We were probably only 20 feet away from each other, but one night a message popped up on my screen:
J: Kath-er-yn!!!! I’m hungry.
K: What do you want to eat?
J: Dunkin Donuts!
K: We don’t have that here. Do you want to go to the store?
J: I don’t want store-bought.
K: Let’s get ice cream.
J: Diddy Riese?
K: Okay. You drive or me?
J: I’ll drive.
K: See you in the living room in 5 minutes.
And with that, we’d had an entire conversation via AIM.
It didn’t hit me until a few months later how we were now communicating with each other. He used to yell out to me or walk to my room and then scare the hell out of me. Sometimes I would go in his room to complain about work. And sometimes we’d just end up in the kitchen at the same time because we needed a drink. But now this was slowly grinding to a halt.
He would IM me if I wanted an apple martini. I would IM him to ask if he could move his car. We would IM each other to ask the other to come into our room and give an opinion on the outfit we planned to wear to dinner. My AP teacher had forseen this all.
The thing is, it just became so much easier to type things out than to talk. My roommate and I spoke the bare minimum at home but would send lengthy messages once we were in our bedrooms. Part of it was the convenience but a good chunk was because we were working retail and had several shouting matches with irrate customers over the course of the day. We were wiped out and didn’t want to speak another word.
Gradually I stopped calling people and moved exclusively to emails and instant messaging. It’s faster, leaves a trail, and means less interaction I have to make. You can also customize colors and backgrounds if you are so technically inclined, but I’m partial to traditional white background with black text.
Every now and then I get a burst of nostalgia and will call up about 10 people in a day to say hello. This, of course, is responded to with a text message or an email.
The topper on the cake? When I do get together with my old roommate, we email each other at work to set up a dinner date. This is then followed by a calendar invite via Outlook.