New technologies have brought social collaboration a new face. Gone are the days when you have to wait months for a snail mail to arrive before hearing the good news about your cousins wedding or the bad news about the death of your grandmother. Gone are the days when one has to fill three pages of stationery just to update a friend of the day’s activities. Today, you can instantly update friends, families or co-workers with whatever you are doing; actually send them a picture of the event or video with the availability of several electronic collaboration technologies. For example, through instant messaging like Skype, you cannot only talk to your sister abroad by you can also see them as well. Through the use of SMART interactive tools, you can conduct an interactive meeting or even join a conference away from the actual venue. Online classrooms are also the trend nowadays, letting you study in the comforts of your homes.
Electronic collaboration “connects individuals electronically via the Internet using tools such as email, or through access to sites on the World Wide Web” (LAB, 1999). One of the earliest forms of electronic collaboration tool is the Instant Messaging (IM) which has evolved significantly through the years. The National Archives defines IM as “an electronic messaging service that allows users to determine whether a certain party is connected to the messaging system at the same time. IM allows them to exchange text messages with connected parties in real time.” (National Archives, 2012). There are different available types of IM software however, their functions are similarly. One has to have the IM client software to be able to use the service. For example, if one has installed Skype in his computer or phone, the other people he wants t contact through must also have Skype installed in his. The more commonly used IM tools are AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Messenger and Chikka among others. Facebook, although a social networking site, is also well known for its instant messaging capability.
Although, there are many types of IMs, their features are much the same. IMs have the capability to send instant messages, chat with a group or group conversations, sharing web links, videos, files and images and taking to online friends just as you would talk with your friends on the mobile phones. Later innovations include having the capability to send email-notifications and video chat capabilities (How Stuff Works, 2012).
Most IM’s are designed to let you follow a conversation. Depending on the software you are using, it also lets you save your contacts just like in your mobile phones. The general design is almost the same. The actual conversation area is small which tends to stay at the corner of your screen for applications on computers. You can keep the tool running on the system tray without interrupting you while working but still get notices whenever new messages, conversations or calls come along. Designers have thought of portability while designing the IMs.
IMs have proven to be very beneficial especially to persons who maintain a social community as part of their daily lives. It has given them several alternatives in communicating and collaborating with them which has proven to be useful to students, employees and ordinary people alike.
Much as IMs has improved communication lines, numerous studies had tried identifying its negative effects. On the technical side, IMs can only let you send messages to a similar platform, unlike emails where you can send an email to a Gmail email account using Yahoo Mail and still receive the email sent. In the workplace, there is a tendency of for employees to be less efficient when they are allowed to use instant messaging because it distracts their planned activities (Jackson & Dawson, 2003). In another study by Lara Eller on the effects of IMs in the written language, she found out that there is indeed a negative effect of using IMs on the written language especially by the students. Students who use IMs all the time tends to use slang language when writing (2005). Other negative effects of IMs are the tendency for having miscommunications because of lack of verbal and visual cues and possible intrusion of privacy. Even if you do not wish others to disturb you, when they see you online, they can initiate communication although some IM tools nowadays has the option to place you on a busy mode even when you’re online. In schools, IMs can be one medium in cheating if the use of IM devices are allowed inside classes.
Eller, Lara. (2005). Instant Message Communication and its Impact upon Written Language. Retrieved from http://wvuscholar.wvu.edu:8881/exlibris/dtl/d3_1/apache_media/L2V4bGlicmlzL2R0bC9kM18xL2FwYWNoZV9tZWRpYS83NDU4.pdf
How Stuffs Work. (2012, January 20). How Instant Messaging Works. Retrieved from http://communication.howstuffworks.com/instant-messaging.htm
Jackson, Thomas and Ray Dawson. (2003). Breaking Bad Habits: The Negative Effect of Email and Instant Messaging on the Workplace. Retrieved from http://www.irma-international.org/viewtitle/32029/
LAB. (1999). Electronic Collaboration: A Practical Guide for Educators. Retrieved from http://www.lab.brown.edu/pubs/collab/elec-collab.pdf
National Archives. (2012, January 20). Frequently Asked Questions About Instant Messaging. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/im-faq.html