Point: Conversation 101 IM vs. Phones

By Gina Roswell
April 18, 2002

Before I came to college, I barely knew what Instant Messenger was. At the start of freshman year, however, my typing skills rapidly increased due to all of the people I talked to on my computer. Now, two years later, I still love my IM ability to talk to so many people at one time, no matter where they are located – even if they’re in the same room!

I’m not one of those IM junkies who creates their own buddy icons and has alarms to notify me when every person on my buddy list signs on, but I am one of those IM junkies who wakes up every morning with my first thought being, “I wonder if anyone IMed me.” Pretty pathetic, huh?

My friends love to ridicule me for the time I spend on IM, but it is all in good fun. My roommate even threatened me once by saying, “One day, I’m going to detach your mouse, tie you to a chair and make you sit in front of your computer screen all day. I’ll tell everyone on campus to IM you and I’ll turn up the volume so all you’ll be able to do is sit there and watch people IM you. You’d go insane!” Yea, she’s probably right – I would lose it.

Think about the abilities that people have with IM that they do not have with any other means of communication. 1.) FREE communication with anyone in the world, anywhere. 2.) No telephone to hold up to your ear while you’re getting dressed or doing your makeup, or whatever it is you have to do. 3.) FREE communication with anyone in the world, anywhere.

Other means of communication that people swear by are, obviously, the telephone, text messaging, email and letter writing. Let’s examine all of these and their faults. Telephone – if it’s a long distance call, you have to deal with choosing what phone service to use, based on 25 cents per minute long distance or whatever the cheapest rate is. Or maybe you think 10-10-220 is a good deal? Every 20 minutes you have to hang up and call back, or else you’re getting charged $.07 for every minute you talk. Yea, that’s appealing. Either way, you have to pay to use a telephone. Even if you order the local calling plan with no long distance, there is still a monthly bill.

What about text messaging? I recently added text messaging on my cell phone for $2.99 per month, which allots me 100 text messages. What I was not told, however, is that the 100 messages counts for incoming AND outgoing messages. Last month, I had 429 text messages and about $40 in extra charges on my bill for the amount that I exceeded. Not only can it get expensive to use text messaging, it’s a pain to type your message! If you have a lot to write, you might as well call the person because by the time you’re done putting in your message, you could have called, had your conversation and hung up.

Now let’s examine email. Wonderful form of communication, for letter purposes or transferring information that doesn’t need to be received right away. For purposes of getting in touch with someone quickly, however, email is useless, most of the time. Though some email websites are free of charge, not all of them are. AOL, for instance, has a monthly charge. Though hotmail, for example, is a free service, it does not present all of the features as does AOL.

Letter writing. Days or weeks can go by before your letter is received by the intended recipient, practically defeating the purpose to begin with. I think that’s all that needs to be said. (We can leave out the 34 cents cost of stamps, as I’m sure no one is pressed for such small change.)

Granted that IM is only useful when you’re at a computer. Telephones and cell phones are good at any point during the day – especially a cell phone. For purposes outside the home, dorm room or computer lab, cell phones are excellent – yes, I agree. But when you’re just sitting in your room, why pick up a phone to call someone when you can type to them for FREE? Also, if you’re looking for a way to increase your typing skills, IM is a great way.

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Gina Roswell

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