Thursday, July 28, 2005

Teens prefer IM

A new study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that teens in the 12-17 year old age group prefer IM to email to keep in touch with friends on the Net.

The presence of email in teens' lives has persisted, and the number that uses email continues to surpass those who use IM. However, when asked about which modes of communication they use most often when communicating with friends, online teens consistently choose IM over email in a wide array of contexts.

Teens who participated in focus groups for this study said that they view email as something you use to talk to 'old people,' institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups. When it comes to casual written conversation, particularly when talking with friends, online instant messaging is the clearly the mode of choice for today's online teens.

I wish this study was out last year when I was trying to convince my librarians to take a chance on IM after MyWebLibrarian predictably crashed and burned. Personally, I had already been using Trillian to connect to my AIM, MSN, and ICQ account for several years. I thought it would be a lot easier to get them to buy into the idea than it was. They had several concerns which I wasn't prepared to address ranging from hours of availability to IMing from the reference desk.

I decided the best course of action would be to shield them from as much of the behind the scenes work as possible. While they went about being Librarians I quietly set up the accounts, installed Trillian on their computers, and created a training manual. After everything was in place I added the contact information to the library website and printed up business cards and flyers to distribute throughout the library (essentially giving them a nice big push into the deep end).

I sat with all of them individually the first few weeks after the project went live to address their questions and concerns. I tried to be as available as possible, which sometimes meant staying late and also IMing with them from home after work.

They have been IMing since Spring semester and are old pros now. In the end, I think I've learned almost as much from this experience as they have.