It’s after midnight and I need to talk to my sister about a family party we’re going to this weekend. The problem: she has two very young children, both with nine o’clock bedtimes. Do I dare call her, potentially waking the kids and incurring the wrath of an overtired mother? Wait, let me check my computer… Yes! She’s on instant messenger!
Instant messaging, a relatively new form of communication, is a system in which the user can have a conversation with a friend by typing messages into a window on a computer screen. It is used by many as a way to hold regular conversations, get homework help, communicate cheaply with long-distance relatives, meet new people, etc. Given the many functions of instant messaging, along with its prevalence today, I will point out some of its effects on language, and address some common concerns. The importance of this lies in the fact that instant messaging has become a regular form of communication; ignoring it won’t make it go away, but learning about it can provide the user with another option in discourse.
Like email, instant messenger was once more a novelty than a serious communication device. As Wendy Lesser writes in her essay on her experiences with email, “One problem with e-mail, though, is that it takes two actively willing participants (229).” When email first came into being, very few people owned modems, and so the small number of people who did have access to email had few people to whom they could type messages. So it was with instant messenger; when only a minority of people had home access to the Internet, IM (instant messaging) simply wasn’t practical for anything but correspondin...
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... way to contact each other quickly, catch up with friends, and leave messages to those we need to get in touch with. Our style is more alive than ever, as we share dialog, jokes, rhymes, and laugh together at subtle absurdities, such as typing ‘lol’ when we can hear each other laughing. It’s hard to avoid such a pervasive technology, but my point is that we don’t have to; we can each utilize it in our own way, using it to enhance communication, not hinder it.
Birkerts, Sven. “Into the Electronic Millenium.” Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age. Ed. Tribble, Evelyn B. and Anne Trubek. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 2003: 62-73.
Lesser, Wendy. “The Conversion.” Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age. Ed. Tribble, Evelyn B. and Anne Trubek. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 2003: 227-232.
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