Awayism on Messenger

with 12 comments

awayism5Is this also what your Messenger or other social contacts application looks like? Everyone uses the ‘away’ status nowadays, and trust me, it is not because I am impopular among my Messenger crowd because I talk to these people in real life on a regular basis.

What I see here is the trend of awayism. I’ll briefly explain what I mean with this -ism here: With Messenger you speak when you are spoken to, simply because it is expected. But if you don’t want to reply, you don’t want to have to excuse yourself all the time, right? So that is where the away button -or the busy/lunchbreak/etc. for that matter- comes into play.

Its original intention was to notify the other user of your availability. But now the Messenger applications are maturing on a social level and developing their own user language. Now the away button is not a way of saying that you are really ‘away’ or ‘busy’, but more and more it signifies that the person on the other side decides for himself if he/she wants to speak when he/she is spoken to.

When software is used, users create their own way of using certain options in a way that they see fit. It is neither in the hands of the developer, nor completely in the hands of the user how the software works in the community. It is a combination of both, meeting in the middle. I’ve been thinking about this, but a button in Messenger that says ‘I’ll think about it if I want to talk to you’ just wouldn’t cut it I guess.


Written by newmw

November 29, 2006 at 10:00 pm

12 Responses

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  1. You could be right, or maybe people just leave their PCs on all day whilst they go out for the day 😉

    I use Microsoft Office Communicator at work which allows you to set statuses like ‘Busy’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’.

    IM can be obtrusive at times. Perhaps we need ‘smart’ messengers that prevent an ‘Away’ status if movement is detected in front of the monitor 😀


    November 30, 2006 at 10:00 am

  2. Those ‘smart’ messenger would be nice probably, a motion sensor would do the trick 😉

    Good point on that it could also be people who leave their PCs on all day, but that also says something different. Because having your IM is usefull for ‘instant’ messaging, in that way your IM becomes a mere e-mail app I guess 🙂


    November 30, 2006 at 12:08 pm

  3. Personally I stopped using IM progs a long time ago, partly because I’m always online so when people send me an email I can respond right back anyway. I find Messenger a very obtrusive program that eats my time, and having my monitor monitor me whether I’m behind my computer or not will imply that I’m free for chat when I’m sitting behind my desk, when I’m actually working there and don’t have time for any of that.

    Anyway Twan if you would like a motion sensor that does that kind of thing I can build you one. See you soon!


    November 30, 2006 at 3:17 pm

  4. Hehe well, yeah we all know IMs are productivity worst enemies 😀 . I don’t even start ’em in busy days, or when I’m coding: continuous interrupts while thinking or writing are awful.

    Anyway, I believe you’re right: most msn contact lists I saw look like that. It is just a way to discourage most of people I suppose.

    I don’t subscribe to the “motion sensor” proposal though… 😀


    December 1, 2006 at 8:27 pm

  5. The idea kind of reminds me of the ‘thing’ you made for the HKU Hein 🙂 That included motion sensors too right?

    The whole problem with IM is that it would be too honest I guess. Motion sensors could come in handy for the standby function on your computer.

    In a time of always being connected, I guess we find some time for ourselves in setting ‘away’ statusses to focus us on other things. But maybe there is just that urge to stay connected -while working-, either through IM or ‘instant’ mailing.


    December 2, 2006 at 4:25 pm

  6. I’m an old-style MSN user: i’m always online. When i really go away, Eliza talks in place of me.


    December 3, 2006 at 1:42 am

  7. This is so true! I do tend to be away quite a lot when I don’t want to be spoken to! I also quite like the invisible option on Windows Live Messenger that lets you chat with your contacts even when you’re offline 😉


    December 12, 2006 at 10:39 pm

  8. Just had another thought… don’t you think the away-ism syndrome is due to the fact we have more and more contacts on MSN? I personally have around 40 contacts – if 5-10 are online, it’s actually very difficult to keep a conversation with all of them at the same time


    December 15, 2006 at 2:10 pm

  9. Very good thought, I also have -too many- contacts because my MSN list is actually my email contact list. And keeping a conversation with more than 2 people is already kinda difficult for me 🙂


    December 21, 2006 at 8:59 pm

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    December 23, 2006 at 6:29 pm

  11. Your observation of away-ism is spot on! This is exactly what the majority of my contacts do.

    I remember back in ICQ times the trend was to be ‘invisible’ and only initiate a chat when you wanted to. As far as I know none of the IM apps these days allow you to be invisible and still initiate chat sessions.

    It would be interesting to see if an ‘invisible’ feature on today’s MSN, AIM, Skype and co would take ‘awayism’ to an extreme?


    March 28, 2007 at 12:01 am

  12. Well perhaps many people also use the ‘offline’ function (being offlline, while still being able to see if your contacts are online). But since I see them as offline I don’t have a clue if they’re using it 🙂 And if users use it for that purpose, that means that the action for which it was intended (being offline) has been replaced by another meaning (i want to talk when i choose).
    But I remember the invisible function on ICQ, that was a good function and served the purpose. Awayism will perhaps always exist, perhaps it depends on the personality using the IM programme. Interesting stuff, I could go on and on about this 🙂


    March 28, 2007 at 10:15 am

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