Assignment #1: Coding our Report

Methods of Communication: Instant Messaging


For this assignment my partner and I researched how Instant Messaging has influenced the Internet. We opened our report by defining Instant Messaging and giving a brief history about how Instant Messaging came to be. Our report focused on the impact that Instant Messaging has had on certain realms including work life, social life,and educational tasks. We went into depth about the positive and negative effects on each and presented survey statistics to help support our research. We coded our report using HTML.

A definition of instant messaging (IM) found at the George Mason University website states that IM is a text-based computer conference over the Internet between two or more people, who must be online at the same time. When you send an IM the receiver is instantly notified that she/he has a message (Montencino, 2004). IM is a way for both the business and social sectors of society to increase speed and efficiency of communication. As the internet became increasingly popular, e-mail was introduced, followed by instant messaging. According to the webpage titled Communication-How Stuff Works, chat rooms were first developed and implemented into society. In the early 1990's chat rooms were on the internet as a form of two-way communication. In November 1996, a free instant messaging software program titled Mirabilis was designed. Mirabilis introduced ICQ. ICQ is a server that allows people to communicate online. Mirabilis then developed a software application called a client. The client was the tool used to communicate with the ICQ server. Today the ICQ model is the most commonly used software within the instant messaging market (Tyson, 2007). Information found on states that MSN, AIM, Yahoo and other major internet providers joined forces to create collaborative networks in 1993. This allowed users from all servers to cross communicate without being charged access fees. In 2005, Microsoft was the first server to develop a live communication server followed by Yahoo and AOL. As previously mentioned more and more software has been created to cater to specific populations. Often in corporate organizations you will find software that has higher levels of security and privacy. Communication software such as jabber, XMPP, and win-popup are used for protection and as more efficient efforts in communication. Students, teens, and parents often use software like MSN, Yahoo, Google and AIM talk, which lack software that values privacy and security (Wikipedia, 2007).

Instant Messaging (IM) has become a significant part of our everyday lives. Many Americans are sending more IMs daily than they do emails. Findings from AIM's Third Annual Instant Messaging Survey conducted in 2005 (AIM, 2005) estimated that IM has taken over as the "communication vehicle of choice". 25 percent of users would like to have entertainment content as a part of their IM service and 20 percent would like to use IM to make voice calls to cell phone and landlines. The survey results from 2005 show that IM has become mainstream with more people using IM than not.

The impact of instant messaging is obvious from the statistics. More people, young and old alike, are referring to IM as their main source for work, social, and educational related assistance. The graph below shows the age group statistics of IM usage. Although most people believe that IM is a communication tool that only teens take advantage of. The findings suggest that it is a popular Internet tool for all ages.

Social scientists, communication professors, and other scholars have explored topics such as gender roles, increase in productivity, child development, and impact on face-to-face interaction, to help define how IM is impacting our society. The following two examples represent how scholars are specifically researching the impact of instant messaging in our culture. The first study was completed in British Columbia. The study found that girls are more willing to explore limitations and expectations of their gender-role by using instant messenger as a type of role play (Kelly, 2006.). A second study representing how scholars are examining IM in our culture was published in a journal titled, Journal of Business Communication. The study found that instant messaging, texting, cell phone, and e-mail use are all far more effective means of communication than face-to-face interaction inside the business world (Smith, 2007). We believe that the lack of face-to-face interaction loses crucial human interactions such as emotions and body language, which can significantly change interactions with people. It is important to experience emotions and body language in an interaction so that communication can include clear understanding, representation, and quality, and not just quantity. Quantity, especially in the work sector of society seems to be an overpowering objective in our society.

Impact on Work Life: Positive vs. Negative Uses

The use of instant messaging at work is mainly to keep in touch with family and friends while performing daily tasks. Employees who use an IM service at work like the way in which IM helps them to multitask, reasoning convenience as their main reason for IMing. 38 percent of IM users at work believe that it helped them to accomplish more at work, giving them the ability to be more productive. 11 percent went as far as to say that using an IM service at work helps them to leave work earlier than they normally would have if not using an IM service. Of the 26 percent of employed IM users that use IM at work 77 percent feel that IM has had a positive impact on their work lives.

At Work-Survey Results

Impact on Social Life: Positive vs. Negative Uses

The use of instant messaging as the main vehicle of communication has dramatically increased over the past few years. More people than ever before are using IM to communicate and stay in touch with family and friends. Instant messaging is a cheaper and more convenient way to talk, especially with those loved ones that are long distance, either across the United States or the world. Because of the widespread availability of instant messaging and the way in which most Internet services are allowing free use of IM, adults and teens alike are spending a great amount of time on the Internet which contributes to a lack in face-to-face interaction. This lack of presence of face-to-face communication can potentially contribute to misunderstandings. It is very difficult to convey emotions as well as feelings online and people are bound to misconstrue conversations as well as contexts. This is a negative consequence of the prevalence of IM use.

Top Social-Related Survey Results

Impact on Educational Tasks: Positive vs. Negative Uses

The impact of instant messaging on educational tasks is a complicated attribute to measure, mainly because of teens' reluctance to admit to IM usage during school and homework time. Many parents are relying on set boundaries to control Internet usage, especially time spent on instant messaging services for the sole purpose of communication with peers. 48 percent of teens ages 13-21 say that they give and receive homework help via IMs; this usage was in last place; communication for social means significantly outscored educational means. Among those teens with rules in place for when and how long they are allowed on IM services, 43 percent say that they can only sent IMs when their homework is finished completely. 24 percent can only go online for a set amount of time each day while 23 percent can only go online during certain hours of the day. Many IM services make parental controls available to assist in monitoring and restricting their teen's time spent online. Along with parental control, most schools have put into place restrictions of IM service during school hours. Many computer labs have access to their internal school network to block IM services, making it nearly impossible to override the school's system. Without these restrictions in place teen usage time would significantly increase, impacting their crucial learning years in school.

Top Uses Among Teens Survey Results

The use of instant messaging is bound to increase in society. Businesses as well as some universities are relying heavily on the use of instant messaging for communication. Each year IM services are coming up with advanced technologies to make IM use more appealing. TV, radio, and stream videos are becoming more popular with the advanced users of IM. Because of our society's reliance on the Internet, IM usage as well as future advances within the realm of IM services is greatly expected.


  1. AIM. Third Annual Instant Message Survey.
  2. Kelly, Deirdre M.; Pomerantz, Shauna; Currie, Dawn H..”No Boundaries?: Girls’ Interactive, Online Learning About Feminists. Youth and Society, vol. 38, no. 1, pp.3-28. Sept 2006.
  3. Montencino, Virginia. Introduction to Internet Terminology. 2004.
  4. Smith, David Mario. Prediction: IM Will Take Over. Business Communication Review. vol.37 issue 8, 00. 6-6. Aug. 2007
  5. Tyson, Jeff; Cooper, Allison. Communication-How Stuff Works. 2007.
  6. Wikipedia. Instant Messaging. 2007.
  7. Valkenburg, Patti; Buijzen, Moniek. Children, Computer Games and the Internet. The Netherlands’ Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 39, no. 1, pp.23-24, 2003. 2003.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you feel about the decrease in face-to-face interaction? How do you feel it is affecting our social environment?
  2. We are seeing an increase in 24/7 open communicate (i.e. Instant messaging) how do you feel it is affecting our work environment?