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The Changing Face of IM

This week in class we're discussing Professor Stern's book "Instant Identity," about the online habits of tweens and teen girls. The majority of were data was compiled in 2002 and 2003, when I was in high school and a fairly frequent user of Instant Messenger myself. Since then my habits have changed entirely. I believe IM habits have changed nationwide as well, thanks to the advent of two things: Facebook and texting.

Professor Stern says none of her girls really dabbled in online blogs or diaries at the time she was researching her book. However, at the exact same time, many of my friends were setting up accounts on LiveJournal, Xanga or MySpace. I was a junior in high school at the time - so perhaps a year or two older than the girls included in the book - but the "future" of online journalling was already apparent to me. I created my own MySpace around this time, mainly because so many of my friends already had one. However, I rarely updated it and haven't logged onto the site for at least four years. Perhaps this has something to do with the serious college student thinking MySpace is too high school, but I think it's more than that. After I graduated, I more or less stopped using IM altogether. It could be that I just became too busy to spend hours online talking... or it could be that I created my Facebook page a month or two into my freshman semester.

While IM is still a widely-used resource, it does not seem as important to me as it did a few years ago. Facebook has absorbed everything I used IM for anyway - I can send people messages without having to remember their e-mail, I can set up get togethers, etc. Facebook Chat even has the same purpose as IM - making something like AOL or Yahoo Instant Messenger seem obsolete. There's another thing that seems to be replacing IMing - texting. While it may not allow for comprehensive discussions (my texting plan only sends out messages up to 160 characters), it gets the job done. If I'm trying to get some friends together, all I need to do is send out a massive text to everyone I'm trying to get a hold of. Like Facebook, texting seems to offer everything that IM ever did. And while it probably won't go away anytime soon, these days IMing is being seen as more and more of an old, unexciting technology.