In the years of the telephone, communication was limited, especially between young people, college or university students in particular. It costs money to make a phone call, and even more money if that phone call is long distance which is common when you're a university or college student. A new day has dawned, this is the day of instant messaging. Gone are the days when you set aside some time once a week to call your friends who are off in other schools. Talking to a pal now is simply a click away on any computer with Internet access. Instant Messaging has irreversibly impacted social structure, giving new face to traditional methods of interaction. The speed at which Instant Messaging has came upon us begs the question; how has society been changed by IM, and what changes are yet to come?
Considering the speed at which Instant Messaging integrated itself into every environment with and Internet connection, how could society be expected to decide whether it's right or wrong, we just don't have the time. Too many other things are happening in the world for us to be concerned with smiley emoticons and fancy fonts bearing heart felt messages. However, new forms of media and the changes it brings do not go unnoticed to all. Marshall McLuhan, considered to be a founder of modern media studies envisioned these changes years ago. Among his many aphorisms, this one seems most fitting for Instant Messaging: "Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of 'time' and 'space' and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men. It has reconstituted dialogue on a global scale. Its message is Total Change".
McLuhan was a futurist, and a visionary. Although he did not live to see the Internet, his theories on media in general can be applied to all mediums. One of MacLuhan's most famous aphorisms is "The medium is the message", meaning:
"We can know the nature and characteristics of anything we conceive or create (medium) by virtue of the changes - often unnoticed and non-obvious changes - that they effect (message)".
MacLuhan wasn't particularly interested in the content carried by a medium, but rather the psychological and social effects brought by any extension of our senses. These extensions of our senses being; when individuals or whole society's make use of something new in a way that extends the range of the human body and mind(i.e. Internet, IM). To demonstrate what he meant by "the medium is the message", MacLuhan used the example of electric light as a medium. He stated electric light has no content whatsoever, yet it has a significant impact on society. With new forms of media such as the Internet or IM, we generally know what they will do, and what they may replace as well as any advantages and disadvantages they may have. McLuhan would not have been concerned with controversial issues like pornography and unwanted advertising on the Internet. Instead, he would have been more concerned with how these mediums would affect our society, senses, thoughts, and perceptions regardless of the content being carried by them. MacLuhan warned that society can often be distracted by the content preventing the real changes from being seen. If we choose to not worry ourselves with the good or bad content that new mediums offer we can begin to see the real change that they bring.
If we want to find the real change IM has brought, we need to look past the text-boxes and emoticons. We need to explore what is different about our society and ourselves because of IM. MacLuhan's publications provide yet another explanation of how we can determine the change brought by any new type of medium. MacLuhan believed "we become what we behold," that "we shape our tools, and there- after our tools shape us. " Applying this to IM, it seems to hold true. IM was created by us as a tool to deliver both efficient communication as well as entertainment, and now we are beginning to see some the effects it has...
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