Instant messaging connects me to the world. By 1998 I was already a two-year veteran of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) before I learnt about ICQ. Soon I was immersed in a global network of friends and acquaintances. But I quickly tired of people wasting my time with idle chit-chat, so I uninstalled ICQ.
Fast-forward to present-day: I’m simultaneously logged in on Yahoo, ICQ and MSN through my Trillian IM client while working as editor, sub-editor and writer.
IM is one thing I cannot do without at work. I don’t have access to the usual bustling office noises that inform the workplace: people gossiping, asking advice, delegating work and making requests. When you’re deaf, these noises appear to be a rich source of information that assist career progress. Perhaps the noise is distracting, but everyone knows it can be invaluable; you may overhear that someone’s leaving and sense an opportunity to be promoted, or if you need to know if someone is in their office before leaving your desk. I don’t have access.
The “presence” ability of IM means I now know if people are at their computers, I can ask for advice, gossip and catch up with friends in quiet moments while my colleagues are listening to music, talking on the phone or surfing the net. It’s much better than email, which I’ve never liked. You write a message and post it to your boss. Has it been read? Who knows? May as well get up and go and see the boss. IM floats on my window into work, providing a multiplicity of opportunities: to work, to socialise, to organise people, to communicate.
It’s email and the telephone rolled into one: almost the best of both worlds.