September 1, 2004

How Americans Use Instant Messaging

Part 5. Other ways people use IM

Americans incorporate IM into their repertoire of interpersonal communication.

IM serves as an additional mode of communication for individuals in the same location.  Nearly a quarter (24%) of IM users report that they have instant messaged someone in a physically close location, such as a home, office, or classroom.  The silent aspect of using IM is especially appealing for individuals who wish to communicate secretively.  When asked how frequently they set-up group conversations on IM, 87% of instant messengers say they do so only once every few months or less often.  IM remains a way for two people to converse, while chatting occurs in other venues. 

According to the February 2004 survey, male IM-ers are more likely than female to send an IM to someone in the same location (29% vs. 19%).  This is particularly striking given that online women and men report using IM in roughly equal proportion.

IM-ers are high multi-taskers.

IM users perform multiple tasks on the computer when they instant message.  When asked if they do other things on the computer or the internet at the same time they are instant messaging, 32% of adult IM users report that they multitask all the time; 29% admit they to doing this some of the time. 

Gen Y-ers are the most avid multi-taskers, but a substantial number of older IM-ers divert their attention to other computer-related tasks, as well.  Forty-nine percent of the Y generation report conducting other computer-related business every time or almost every time they IM.  The next highest group of individuals are Gen X-ers, at 32%. For older generations, the percentage of each age cohort is even smaller. 

Fewer IM users conduct non-computer-related activities, such as talking on the phone or watching TV while IM-ing—20% engage in other activities all the time and 30% some of the time. 

Younger IM-ers perform other tasks while instant messaging

IM and wireless devices

A number of IM users (15%) have instant messaged using a wireless device, such as a cell phone, PDA, or wirelessly enabled laptop.  At the same time, 17% of all internet users have logged online using a wireless device. 

Not surprisingly, among all instant messengers a greater number of online Gen Y-ers (25%) than members of any other age group have IM-ed wirelessly. 

Frequent IM-ers are more likely to have IM-ed wirelessly than occasional instant messengers.  IM-ers who log onto the internet daily and IM for longer periods of time are more likely than those who do so less frequently to have IM-ed via a wireless connection. Daily IM-ers (22%) and those who instant message several times a week (20%) have IM-ed wirelessly. A fifth of IM-ers who have spent 15 minutes to an hour logged onto IM have instant messaged using a wireless device, and a quarter of IM-ers who have spent more than an hour online have chatted with others wirelessly. 

Some 27% of IM-ers who use IM more often than email say that they have instant messaged using a wireless device.  Fewer (12%) individuals who use email more frequently than IM have instant messaged using a wireless device.  

As reported earlier, online Americans making less than $30,000 are more likely to have ever IM-ed.  However, among instant messenging adults, those earning more than $75,000 per year are more likely to have IM-ed wirelessly (34%).