Instant messaging, the ability to converse online with one or more individuals in real time via email, has been around for about 10 years. According to a Pew Report, 53 million Americans use IM and 24 percent use it more than traditional email. It has become especially popular among college students. A study conducted by students in Associate Professor Susan Blum’s linguistic anthropology class found that 97 percent of Notre Dame students use IM and 63 percent use it five times or more a day. After face-to-face conversation, IM is the most popular communication method among Notre Dame students, ahead of phone conversations, letters and email.
One explanation for IM’s popularity, Blum says, is that it allows a person to have a large number of interactions in a short period of time. Also, IM conversations can be conducted while doing other things. In the Notre Dame survey, 91 percent of the respondents say they “multitask” while IMing.
“While academics might complain of drowning in email, our students are reveling in a world filled with quick exchanges that delight them. One study shows that depressive symptoms diminish when students have increased IM and e-mail interaction,” Blum wrote in a recent issue of Anthropology News_. The text of the report by Blum’s students can be found at blank">www.nd.edu/~sblum/InstantMessaging.pdf.