“Bloop, bloop, bloop.” That’s a sound that can be truly annoying, at least if you’re not the one who is sending AOL instant messages to a friend or colleague. Now in fairness, I haven’t heard those noises in nearly a decade, since my last job in a medium-sized office. But it has still left its mark on me, and as a result I truly hate IM in all forms.
As a self-employed, home-based worker I find the need to stay very connected so that I can be reached easily. Unfortunately this means that I face an endless amount of distractions. This is the cause and effect of today’s high-tech communication and connectivity. On my desk I have the standard landline phone and multiple cellular phones, a Skype phone, multiple e-mail accounts and even the aforementioned (and despised) IM running on the computer. I did draw the line at the fax machine, which is not in my home office. I can send and receive faxes, but I absolutely try to avoid doing so whenever possible.
I also try to avoid providing my cellular number and I would recommend this to any home-based workers as well. Do not freely give out your mobile phone. If you need to leave the office, and receive those important calls on your mobile phone the best option is to get call forwarding instead. Otherwise you risk getting a swarm of calls on your mobile, at times when you don’t need the constant interruptions. And strangely while many people would never answer a phone on the landline—such as during a meeting or interview—a call on a mobile phone is something far too many of us do answer!
But now back to my point on IM. Instant messaging is great, but as with mobile numbers I’ve learned that I can’t just “give out” my IM user name. Otherwise I risk non-stop distractions from friends and colleagues, including valid requests for meetings, as well as the all-too-common, “hey did you see that new Showtime series about the call girl in London yet?” For the record, the series from the UK was really to add shock value to this post, even though there are probably things I’d love about the series (or any TV show for that matter), but not when I’m on deadline and trying to file an article. IM seems to make some users believe that if they’re taking a break so is everyone they see online. OK, so I could set myself to “busy” but that defeats the point of having IM for those that really need to reach me.
And actually another reason I hate IM is that it was something various workers have used to “sneak” in chatting with friends. If they gabbed it up for a half hour on the phone their bosses might notice, but someone typing a message away often was discrete enough to not draw any attention… at least once you turned off the sounds, avoiding the “bloop, bloop, bloop” alerts!