I’ve been hiding offline from my Instant Messaging client for a couple weeks trying to catch up on work. I admit to being confused about whether I should be on IM or not these days. It can be a great tool for communication where telephones are just too resource intensive, but it can also be a great timesink. Part of this is squarely on me – I need to learn to tell others I’m busy and not feel bad about that. Other times I’ve been insensitive and not asked folks if it was a good time to IM. Sometimes I set a status message and an auto-reply and people still ignore them inappropriately. Only one of my regular IM correspondents seems to really understand IM etiquette and he has the best off-line manners of any of my friends too – you know who you are – thanks for always asking if it’s a good time to chat! I’m willing to chalk this up to new-media growing pains, but I hope others are making an effort to figure out legitimate social boundries.
I went a-searchin’ on the Internet for what others are thinking about IM etiquette, and there’s some pretty droll advice out there, but How To Annoy People Using Instant Messaging really nails it, in a funny, sarcastic manner. Have a look and make a note of the things you didn’t even realize you were doing (I had a few).
I’ll add a couple to the list:
Be sure to send an IM with something that’s not timely, that would really be better put in an e-mail, because interrupting your correspondent for a response is the best way to show you care. Completely ignore the appropriate use of an instant messaging system, and send all communications ‘instantly’.
Expect that if your correspondent is online that he’s not deep in thought trying to figure something else out. Better to send a random idle thought to ensure he’s not.
I’m going back online, again, for another try. Send the link to all your friends – it’s mostly all common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded of it. If we all follow these basic rules IM can really be a useful tool. I really do prefer an IM to a phone call when the magic smoke isn’t leaking out of systems, so I’d hate to have to go into hiding again.
[note – it took 2 minutes from when I re-opened my IM client until I got a message that would have made a fine e-mail]