17 Nov

(oh my god: instant message)

what a wonderful, liberating, and democratic medium of conversation in all it’s constrictions and nuances. srsly

consider the medium of an instant message: it is sent and received on a screen of various sizes depending upon the device used. most often, the device will be a computer or a mobile phone/pda. these two different device types (large/immobile vs small/mobile) are both liberating in their own fashion. g8

the computer (desktop)

messages are received/sent using a keyboard/mouse and shown on the main screen. these messages are contained within their own message box separating them from the rest of the desktop or screen display. these boxes themselves can often be customized to suite personal preferences in color and size, but usually they only take up a small portion of the display, leaving ample room for multitasking. this is a key difference in this form of communication when compared to say, f2f or otp (i’m assuming anyone reading this has had a face to face conversation and spoken on the phone with someone, so i won’t trouble anyone in the fine details of those two methods of communication). one can do a number of simultaneous tasks limited to while instant messaging on the computer both in the virtual realm on the screen and in the physical world. afk

the computer (laptop/notebook)

note the connotations associated with the name of the portable computer. laptop: on your lap, informal. notebook: even less defined physically, but conveys a sense of mobility and professionalism. the notebook computer uses the same interface as the desktop. while the notebook is portable, battery life and bulk inhibit true mobile instant messaging. g2g

the mobile phone/pda

screen size and virtual world multitasking plummets. real world multitasking and mobility skyrockets. here the interface is a bit different due to device limitations. the keyboard is smaller or integrated into the phone’s number pad and the message box now takes up the entire screen display. these slight modifications inhibit conversation flow. bbc

the message

in its most simple form, instant messaging caters to quick and short bursts of primarily visual information conveyed through text. emotion and emphasis must be implied visually or not at all, which can lead to misunderstanding a snippet of conversation between two people might look something like this:

shivermekimbers [12:37:42]: hellooooo?

jstdsntmakesnse [12:37:42]: (Auto Response) i am playing a game that takes up the entire screen

shivermekimbers [12:37:50]: srsly? wtf! ima get some fooooods and wanted to know if you were hungry

shivermekimbers [12:37:52]: lame 😦

shivermekimbers [12:37:55]: ima hunt u down and keel u

jstdsntmakesnse [12:38:21]: noes!!!

jstdsntmakesnse [12:38:24]: im at home. wah

shivermekimbers [12:38:27]: lol you dont work. lies

jstdsntmakesnse [12:38:30]: kewl games B-)


this conversation provides some insight into this form of communication. most notably conventional rules concerning grammar, spelling, and punctuation are moot, while acronyms and textual imagery abound which help to convey emotions and meaning quickly.

while not lending itself to lengthy, comprehensive dialogues, the instant message is best suited for witty, fast paced “implied conversations”. what i mean by implied conversation is that more often than not a message will have embedded meaning. in the simplest sense, one must be familiar with the acronyms thrown about in conversation to understand and get the meaning. on another level, there are the text faces 🙂 which convey emotion. special characters used in succession for emphasis !!! ??? or combination !?!?

unlike phone or spoken conversations, the instant message is a visual dialogue. however unlike email or text message or letter, the instant message unfolds in real time. all one needs is a keyboard to partake in the conversation, and it’s not really about what you say, but how you say it. for instance, one can type out the sentence, “He was a newbie, completely useless.” or “n00b”. the later is quicker but requires the audience to know what the abbreviation means. here are a few i’ve used in this post:

srsly – seriously

g8 – great

afk – away from the keyboard

g2g – got to go

bbc – big bad challenge

wtf – what the freak

lol – laugh out loud


anyway… there is a whole culture surrounding instant messaging, from its “lingo” to the very way one thinks about conversation (and during it as well) that affects other aspects of life. it’s rapid fire visual communication where dialogue is dominated not by the one who has the most/best thing to say, but by the one who can say the most/best in the least amount of space and time.


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