Study: IM is Surprisingly Formal :) provides some interesting data about the IM use of college students. Most of the content comes from Naomi Baron, mentioned here before in the post generation text and more recently she was quoted in the amazing article “The Net Generation Goes to College”. I’d really like to have a conversation with her, because in the article from The Chronicle she seems to have some old school views on pedagogy, but she takes a very neutral, descriptive approach when it comes to IM and SMS. Here are some bits that I found interesting:
bq. “One of the students said that IM is language under the radar”
This concept is new to me. So often we hear about the security and privacy issues that may or may not be associated with IM, it is novel to hear someone thinking about it in a highly private and underground way.
bq. Like music playing in the background, the students do not put all of their attention into IM…
bq. They also carry on multiple IM conversations at the same time. The average was 2.7, and some students have 12 conversations going simultaneously.
This is a difficult concept for people to grasp, and this ability comes from the multitasking at which Millenials’ can excel. People enjoy the immediacy of IM, but do so without constant rigidness about the rate of responses. This frees librarians to take a bit of time with responses, and to not worry if they need to tell an IM patron that they need to finish with someone in-house. Just like librarians dealing with patrons in different modalities, your IM patrons are likely dealing with other IMers, homework, maybe some music and quite possibly a parent too. Makes the situation when you have an in-house and IM patron seem not quite as bad, huh?
bq. “I had anticipated from what I had read in the popular press about teenagers that the studentsâ€™ IM would be full of acronyms and abbreviations,” Baron said. Instead, she found in her sample that the writing was more “natural.” Out of 11,718 words, there were only 31 abbreviations (mostly “k” for “ok”), 90 acronyms (mostly “LOL” for “laughing out loud”), and only 49 emoticons (mostly the smiley).
Many librarians are worried about needing the Rosetta Stone to transcribe patrons’ IMs into something resembling English. As I stated at Internet Librarian last week, the issue of abbreviations and IM lingo is a bit overblown. It isn’t as extreme as ppl think.
bq. There were also just 121 misspelled words. “I will have more misspellings in the papers my students turn into me,” Baron said. “And you have to remember there is no spell check on IM.”
Emphasis mine. Does that blow you away, or what? Clearly, they’re doing better than I am with spelling in IMs.