Instant Messaging Widely Favored, With Few Drawbacks

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Instant messaging use has never been in higher demand, says a recent study from Washington-based Pew Internet and American Life Project.

In the first-ever study Pew has undertaken on the IM sector, researchers found that nearly 43 percent of all Internet users reported having a positive experience with an IM product and have made instant communication part of their lives.

Pew estimates that 11 million working Americans make use of instant messaging products. The amount of IM users that reserve their usage of IM platforms to work tasks accounted for 40 percent of respondents, with 33 percent saying that they used IM at work to communicate with family, with 21 percent saying they used it for both purposes.

"IM use at home and in the workplace will grow as these creative and time-saving uses of the technology percolate through the generations," said Amanda Lenhart of Pew.

Despite earlier skepticism, many business owners have found considerable time- and money-saving aspects to the implementation of IM throughout their business operations. However, some employers have had problems making sure that the majority of IM usage among employees is productive and pertains to assigned work projects.

The number of respondents that felt IM products strengthened camaraderie and efficiency among co-workers was evenly split, with 41 percent agreeing and 40 percent disagreeing.

The Pew study also found that among employers and employees, some workers felt that IM usage was a waste of time and added stress to their days. The study found that while 50 percent of respondents found that IM products saved some amount of their time in the office, 26 percent of respondents felt that IM added no positive benefits to their day.

Another contradictory sentiment among those IM users interviewed was that 14 percent found IM to have a negative effect on their workday, with 11 percent saying they couldn't live without it. There were also strong feelings that IM products encouraged office gossip among co-workers.

According to the study, AOL's AIM was the first-choice product among respondents, with Yahoo Messenger trailing at second place.

The results of Pew's research was combined with information from Reston, Virginia-based comScore Media Metrix, a consumer behavior research firm.