I don’t often use instant messaging programs like AIM or iChat, and it turns out there may be a reason for that besides a lack of friends. In his recent article, Instant Messaging for Introverts, Mac writer (and husband to this blogger) Joe Kissell argues that introverts may be put off by these types of programs because of the unique demands they make on the user’s attention. Joe explains that for many introverts it is difficult to concentrate on numerous tasks at once, which makes it challenging to participate in online chats while attending to other work projects. In addition, because introverts often carefully weigh out what they will say (or write in the case of instant messaging), the energy it takes to respond to someone in writing may equal or exceed that required for personal interactions, meaning that instant messaging can quickly become a draining experience for the introvert involved. However, because it is sometimes necessary or helpful to use these types of programs, Joe goes beyond diagnosing the problem and gives some practical suggestions about how to make them work for introverts.
I’d highly recommend this article because I think Joe has identified one of those aspects of modern social interaction that often goes unexamined by extroverts and introverts alike. Like a shoe that doesn’t quite fit right, introverts might not always understand why they are feeling uncomfortable, and this type of analysis helps to clarify the situation. You can find the article, and many other useful Mac-related articles, on the TidBITS Web site.