Instant Messaging used to be a great tool. Unfortunately, like email, once it became popular it went from useful tool to annoyance. I don’t think it was anything about the technology itself but I think the longer that it was around the more people projected their own social flaws onto it. What follows is an analysis of some of the more irritating aspects of IM.

The Entertain Me IM

This type of IM is basically nothing more than a buddy having nothing else to do and IM’s you for the purpose of having you entertain him. They have nothing to say, and no matter how busy you tell them you are, they continue intruding in the hopes you’ll start chatting about nothing with them.

Here’s an example:

Buddy: Hey

You: Hey, how’s it going?

Buddy: Good.

Buddy: What are you up to?

You: Just trying to get this proposal out the door. I’m way behind and I have to get it done today.

Buddy: So who’s it for?

You: XYZ Corp.

Buddy: Really? What kind of project?

You: Just a small software development gig. Nothing special.

Buddy: Did you do anything this weekend?

Notice that at no time do they have any actual information to convey to you despite initiating the conversation. The entire purpose of their questions is to lure you into taking control of the conversation so they can sit back and be entertained. Of course, if you do happen to chuck your responsibilities and start talking about what you did this weekend or some movie you just saw they’ll cut you off suddenly with something like “Oops, gotta go. Lunch just showed up.”

The Missing Instant in Instant Messenger IM

Your buddy IM’s you but can’t seem to stay focused on the conversation he initiated.

Example:

Buddy: Hey, I need your help on something.

You: Sure.

———- 45 second go by.

You: Hello?

———- 45 seconds go by.

You: Hello?????????????????

Buddy: Hold on.

——— 2 – 3 minutes elapse.

Buddy: Hey, need to ask you something.

You: Sure.

———- 45 seconds go by.

I think you get the picture. Sometimes they never come back. They leave you hanging.

The IM Flood IM

This is just the opposite of the Entertain Me IM. This buddy has no interest whatsoever in hearing your side of the conversation. They just start rapidly typing line after line of IM’s at you telling you about something that’s obviously of some importance to them.

Here’s an example:

Buddy: Hey, I went to go see that movie you recommended the other night.

Buddy: I had to wait 30 minutes just to buy a ticket.

Buddy: Then I had to wait another 20 minutes to get inside the theatre.

Buddy: By the time I got inside there were no seats left and I had to sit in the front row.

Buddy: Now my neck is killing me.

You: Hey.

Buddy: But I really like the movie.

Buddy: Thanks for recommending it.

Buddy: It ran a little slow at times but

Buddy: I liked it anyway.

Even if you do try to engage in an actual conversation with this person you’re fighting a losing battle because they’re typing so rapidly that you can never tell whether or not they’re replying to something you typed or if they’ve moved on to another topic.

The Predatory IM

This is similar to the IM Flood IM with the subtle difference in that your buddy leaps on you like a predatory animal the second you log in. Your IM software hasn’t even fully loaded yet and they’ve already typed 5 messages at you. All you hear is the constant ring of the IM window like a beat at a rave party. The only thing you can do is imagine them sitting in front of their computer like a wild animal salivating as they stare at their buddy list waiting for any sign of life so they can pounce. On some systems the IM goes into idle mode if you don’t touch anything on your computer for some given length of time. If you so much as move your cursor the IM predator is on you like you’re the slow antelope in the pack.

Last but not least on this list is the:

The Personal Google IM

This is the buddy who decides that it’s always quicker and easier for him to interrupt you to find some piece of information than it is for him to look for it. If you emailed him a URL two weeks ago he’ll IM you asking if you have it handy rather than spend the 30 – 45 seconds it would take him to look in his Deleted mail folder. These folks are the ultimate catch 22 though as if you answer their questions you become their personal Google and they will interrupt you several times every day with random questions they could easily have found the answers to themselves. At times you will even be dumbfounded and amazed that they even thought you might know the answer (You don’t happen to remember my wife’s birthday, do you?). And if you even give off a hint that it might be easier for them to get the information themselves you get cold shouldered for being a jerk to them.