Counterpoint: Conversation 101

By Catharine Hernson
April 18, 2002

As much as I like to use Instant Messenger, it is not the best form of communication on the planet. There are many things that are inconvenient about the service, and that bother me in general.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid IM user, its nice to have when you want to know who is around, or for a quick message. It is not something I want to use when having a serious discussion, or even joking around for that matter. It hurts me to say that I do, but I’m not happy about it.

Reason number one for my dislike of the IM service is that it is extraordinarily impersonal. I like to hear people talk; I like to see their body language. It helps me to better understand what they are trying to say. With IM you have no idea if a person is serious or joking, or about to break down into tears from what was just typed. I happen to be a very sarcastic person, I joke around a lot and many of my jokes are not received well over the computer. When poking fun of my friends, it often sounds silly the way I would say it in a real life conversation, but on IM the comment can be construed as rude or insensitive. Tonality and inflection are huge instruments of the human thought process. You cannot hear how unserious a person is over the computer, and this has led to more than one fight for me.

My counterpart has said that the IM service is especially useful because it is free this is only partly true. IM is free to people with an Internet provider, and they cost money. Don’t think that you’re getting off easy with IM here at school because the Internet is always hooked-up and you’re not paying for it. You are. If you look at your tuition bill there is a charge for Internet service, it is a cost of $50 per semester. This may not be as expensive as having AOL at home, but it is a lot more than most new Internet Service Providers, such as AT&T, NetZero, Juno and Comcast@ home.

Each of these services run at roughly $10 a month, meaning $20 less a semester on campus than we pay, so AIM is certainly not free of charge.

Text messaging is just a ridiculous feature added to cell phones in order to catch people who are already addicted to IM. The service is hard to use and is a blatant copy of IM. The price for 100 incoming and outgoing messages is a very low $2.99, the problem is that they charge 99 cents for every extra message that is sent, think about this for a minute. You would be paying for three messages for $2.97 after you surpass your 100, that’s right three costs the same amount as 100. Not a very good deal. How easy would it be to just pick up the phone and talk to the person, I’m sure the message can wait a few minutes until you are available to actually talk. People like to hear other people.

Life without human contact would be a terrible fate for any person. If all you could do was sit in a room and talk over the computer, with no chance of ever meeting or seeing or hearing the person you are talking to again, you would probably be a very lonely person. When I go home for breaks, the only way I can contact friends from school is over IM or e-mail, and I feel so out of the loop that I cannot wait to get back to school where I can just run around campus to see whoever I wanted to talk to. There is just something in the human voice that makes conversation real, heartfelt or funny. You need to have real contact at times; the Internet cannot be your best friend.

My counterpart would “go insane” if she was unable to answer her IM, on the other hand I would probably go insane if I were unable to here or see my friends anymore. I like to talk and joke and have fun with real people, you cannot get that interaction with IM. It is a nice way to have a quick back and forth to find out what is going on, but to have an actual conversation over IM just causes more problems than it’s worth.

The IM is the laziest way to hold a conversation. Get out of your desk chair and make an effort to really talk to people.

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Catharine Hernson

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