Grownups Get The Hang Of Instant Messaging

You know a technology has become a fixture of American life when it turns into a verb. The name “Google” is one such example—as in, “I’ll Google it.” Similarly, the phrase “instant message” has now transcended its humble beginnings as adjective-plus-noun and entered the vernacular as a kind of compound verb. Nor is instant messaging (commonly known as IM) the exclusive province of giggling teens. A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that nearly 54 million adults use IM. Moreover, 24 percent of these people say they already use IM more than conventional e-mail. And 36 percent of IM users say they use it every day. While IM is still used more often outside the workplace than in it, the gap is narrowing. The study found 21 percent of IMers use it at work. Not all of them are pleased about the trend, though, with 10 percent of at-work IM users saying “they wish they could do away with it.” As you’d expect, IM usage is especially common among Gen Y adults (see the chart below). Younger IMers also use it more heavily than their IM elders. Thirty-five percent of IMers age 18-27 actively send and receive instant messages for about an hour per day, vs. 22 percent of the 28-39s, 29 percent of the 40-49s and 8 percent of the 50-58s. Most people confine their IM activity to a small circle of users: “66 percent of IM users say they regularly IM between one and five people. Only 9 percent of IM users say they regularly IM more than 10 people.” On the other hand, 51 percent said they’ve received unsolicited IMs from people they don’t know.