IM has been a fixture in the home and in enterprises for well over a decade. One of the nice, possibly underhyped, features of IM is presence, i.e. letting your contacts know when you’re free to chat and when you’re busy.
I suppose invisible is also a presence state, but from the would-be chatter’s perspective, it isn’t.
I’ve often wondered how vigilant and transparent people are about their presences. I generally let the chat application set mine, turning my status to away when the host machine is inactive, but often, when I’m actually leaving my computer, I will set my status to away to let people know that I’m not available. Of course, this isn’t really true, since the people who need to can get me on my cell.
I know, who uses a phone for phone calls anymore?
But still, for IM purposes, I make a decent effort to reflect my presence at the machine. Unfortunately, I often forget to reset my status to available when I return.
There exists a subset of IM users who always have the same status. I’m sure you’ve met them. They’re either always away or always available, regardless of their real state at the machine, essentially negating the status. The invisible user is a member of this subset too, which can be surprising, if you happen to notice that person isn’t online, then presto, s/he IMs you.
Are you one of these people? If so, why do you avoid using the status. Most IM applications set status based on in/activity by default, so it seems this decision was made with a reason.
I guess a larger question is, do people really check status before chatting? Do you? If you run into someone with a constant away status, do you hit them up anyway? There’s an interesting set of online manners at work here.
Anyway, I’m not judging here; I’m genuinely curious to know the motivations and reasons behind the use of presence. This is something that has interested me for a long time, and it’s always informative to get real perspectives behind observed behaviors.
Find the comments, if you’re available.