By Abraham Nachbaur, nachbaur
>> Instant Messaging
has become an integral part of college life and residential
communities; whether for better of for worse, however,
is the subject of heated debate. From my research I
have concluded that IM supplements traditional forms
of communication and is, therefore, for the better.
By extending the real space community into the world
of cyberspace, IM strengthens the bonds between peers.
Rather than promote emotional loneliness and isolation,
IM allows students to communicate with one other more
often and to build stronger relationships with people
they might not otherwise converse with on a regular
basis. Some psychologists and leading Internet researchers,
however, fear that online interaction detracts from
face-to-face interaction and weakens community ties.
For instance, LaGesse presents the common worry that
"friends and coworkers are losing the warmth of
personal interaction, and IM-ing will cause us to further
neglect the power of personal cues--the winks, nods,
and voice tones that give nuance to our dialogue"
(2001, p. 56). Whether beneficial or harmful, IM is
nonetheless a ubiquitous aspect of student life.
>> With the data
collected from 120 participants and current research
on IM, I will dissect three main uses of IM--chatting,
flirting, and leaving and retrieving messages--and highlight
the extent to which it has become an integral aspect
of student life in each area. By supplementing many
forms of traditional communication, online interaction
further facilitates the formation and maintenance of
relationships and community cohesiveness.