I have been contacted by far, far too many online morons who have nothing to say, and can’t even manage to communicate that nothing clearly. I am grumpy. If you’re reading this, your not one of them. But still.
Online chatting has been around for longer than any of today’s young computer users could hope to remember; however, it only really took off fairly recently. While computing itself became truly mainstream with Windows 95, the application that made online chatting the next new thing was ICQ (a pun on the words I seek You). This bloated, slow, and unreliable application was loved by users everywhere, and quickly became a standard mainstay of every internet addicts computer. The only people who weren’t receptive to the new technology were the old timers and power users, claiming that it had all the downsides of email without any of the advantages: it interrupted you like a phone call, but didn’t offer voice or any interaction closer than an email.
Despite these vocal protests, though, ICQ became a huge hit. Soon other companies were releasing messenger products in order to get in on the market: Microsoft’s MSN, AOL’s AIM, Yahoo’s YIM, Jabber, and many others. Instead of improving the situation with competition, this just made things worse. Now, to talk to all of their friends, a user may be required to install two or more competing messaging programs. This takes up twice as much space, and offers no advantage at all. While the situation has improved recently, with the release of third party programs like Miranda and Adium, these programs don’t offer all the same features of the official program, and often stop working as network upgrades are performed.
Adding to these messaging woes is another disadvantage of instant messaging that seems built into the system, but only became a true problem recently: It’s too convenient and cheap. In the same way that the telephone ended the doctor’s house calls because people would call too often for too little reason, so will instant messaging end the art of thinking of something to say before contacting someone. Pushing the send button is just too easy. Just ten short years ago, online communication (in the form of email and usenet) was an art. Now, however, it’s hardly worthy of the name communication:
evildeathmaster917593: nm u
sexxxysoxxx: nm wat u doin
sexxxysoxxx: oic=oh i see
And so it continues, endlessly. No useful information is passed on, and thousands of hours are wasted. You don’t even know who you’re talking to anymore, seeing as most young females tend to have usernames like SexySunshineLoveStarsRainbowsAndKisses333, unless they’re depressive when they tend to call themselves BloodyDrippingTearsOfTorment666, and all the teenaged guys are things like DrDeathMaker92. People who get through the teenaged years, and realize they might, some day, have to give their online username to a boss, girlfriend, or priest, tend to be utterly unidentifiable collections of letters like klogla, rms, or…well…fastfinge.
This mass downgrading of the art of socializing and communication is bound to have unpredictable effects on future society; already we’re seeing people use chat acronyms in resumes and professional email, and people who are completely ignorant of the English language. What will we end up with? A world of people completely unable to communicate about anything other than the weather, unable to write a moving speech or letter, unable to enjoy reading a well written book? Sure, instant messaging is fast and convenient, but what is the cost? Is it really worth the price?
I can tell you it’s not worth the personal price. If one more person sends me a message reading “sup”, and turns out to have nothing to say and nothing to talk about, I am going to begin jibbering madly, and will probably have to be restrained by medical professionals.