Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Happened to Chat?

I used to chat a lot. Every machine I have has AIM loaded on it and has it in the startup so that it boots right there every time I turn on a machine. I went from AOL to AIM when I dropped AOL. I've had Trillian and Pidgin. Recently I added my Facebook friends to my AIM installation and thought that would mean WAY more chatting. But it hasn't. There's so little chatting now I've thought a whole lot about uninstalling the applications. I've long thought that the AIM app was a tiny little boat anchor slowing down everything else I do. I probably won't do anything so drastic. But I do wonder where all the chatting went.

I've read online that chat's been replaced with SMS and Skype. I guess that's possible. People are way more savvy with their cell phones, and the cell phones have much easier text entry. Maybe a lot of what was chat is now SMS. I guess the same goes for Skype. Why would you sit at your computer and type when you could sit at your computer and talk; or even talk with video. AIM had audio and video a long time ago but I think it was software ahead of the hardware curve. For some reason I never used it. But really there's another thing here. SMS and Skype aren't the same as chat. Chat is a different mode. For one thing, you sort of have to put yourself out as being available for chat. SMS is as intrusive as a phone call - well maybe only as intrusive if you expect to converse. If you're just shooting out a message SMS is *perfect* but for talking... pretty much the same as a phone call. Skype is different too. Maybe I'd feel different if I were a regular user, but I don't get the feeling you just leave a Skype connection open when you are doing other things. Chat was sort of the ultimate side conversation. Really I am surfing or playing a game or working, but while I am there's this slow running continuous conversation going on.

Maybe it's that the people I chat with have become busy. Chat does have the handicap of having to be sitting at the computer. Years ago I would sit at this screen for many more hours than I do now. Many of my friends have had kids or changed their work or job situation. Those are all things that would take people out from in front of their screens. I shouldn't begrudge them their quality of life just because it cut down on my socializing.

Could be it is about screens. With my phone and my tablet I don't get in front of my computer all that much anymore. I can even blog fairly well from the tablet. I tend to not run AIM from either of those devices. I'm not sure why - ok really the reason why lately is that there's so much less chat. Why would I? Could be that it's the same for other folks.

I've been looking at the "hangout" thing on Google+. It seems to me that maybe that's the heir to chat. I could see just leaving that open. Although the video dimension of the thing is certainly a game changer.

It's probably not a bad thing that chatting has dropped off. It was in all likelihood distracting and I can say for sure that my Pacific timezone buddies often kept me up much later than is healthy for me (good thing I don't have buddies in Hawaii). Still, I miss the interaction and the ability to keep up with what people are doing and what they're thinking in real time. Facebook really isn't a substitute, even if they are the new AOL.

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