The Pleasures & Perils of Using IMs (instant messages)
One might assume that all computer users know what an IM (instant message) is, but I've met many folks who've had no experience with them at all. Simply put, it's a real-time online conversation between two people accomplished by typing messages back and forth. Nowadays, IMs can also include audio and/or video, depending on the accessory equipment users have.
Furthermore, IMs are free — meaning no-cost conversations with someone across the street or across the country. In fact, Mary and I often use IMs to send data back and forth between computers in the same room.
What some users may not be aware of, however, is that IM conversations can be saved, and often are — and not always with both users' consent. Therefore, it's prudent to never say anything in an IM (or in an email) that you wouldn't want to see in print someday.
Can IMs be used as evidence in court?
I'm no legal eagle, but I would doubt it, since the messages can be edited by either participant to read any way he or she might want. Nonetheless, even the hint of impropriety in a message can come back to haunt you later.
In any case, some folks save IMs thinking they might be used as an argument in a dispute someday. Well, for whatever reason, here's how they can be saved:
Saving an IM
Usually, an open IM will have a File>Save, or File>Save As option which can be used to save the conversation as a text file (.TXT) or as an HTML file (.HTM). AOL sometimes uses RTX, which is basically the same as HTML.
Alternatively, you can click inside an open conversation and do Ctrl+A (Select All) and Ctrl+C (Copy), whereupon you can use Ctrl+V to Paste the copied text into a text-editing page of some kind or into an email. Finally, use Ctrl+S (Save) or File>Save As to name and save the conversation. (I've done IMing with people all over the world, and can't imagine being without such a service.)
IM capabilities have always come with AOL, where one can type Buddy List into the Go line to create a list of potential correspondents. Non-AOL users can sign up with any number of other free services, of which AIM (AOL Instant Message at
(www.aim.com) is the most popular. Others include MSN, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, Netscape Messenger, and Google's Hello. Many social networking sites, such as MySpace, also have internal IM services which can be used between members.
AIM has automatic compatibility with AOL and CompuServe users, while Trillian
(www.ceruleanstudios.com) claims to be compatible with all IM services.
It's also possible to create a "private chat room" wherein invitees can visit without fear of strangers entering the room or eavesdropping on conversations. See your IM service's Help areas for details.
Free Long Distance Voice Conversations
The best thing about these services, in my humble opinion, is being able to have free audio conversations. You can do this by plugging a microphone into your sound card's Mic input and listening to your PC's speakers. However, plugging in a headset with a built-in microphone will yield much more satisfying results. See your IM service's Help section for specifics.
Be aware, however, that hackers have ways of using IMs to perpetrate scams. DO NOT click on any links that may suddenly appear in an IM, and DO NOT accept invitations to IM with someone you don't know.
True Story about a VERY Embarrassing IM...
I was once giving a presentation for about 75 people at my hometown computer club, and was about to demonstrate how to initiate an IM. I'd logged on and saw the names of some friends on my Buddy List. I was about to double-click one and send her a greeting.
Well, imagine my surprise when Margie beat me to it. "Hi, Don," she'd typed, "how are you doing?"
This is great, I thought. Now I can demonstrate what it looks like when you're suddenly IMed by a buddy, as well as how you type a reply and send it.
"Great, Marge," I replied. "How are you this evening?"
"Well," she replied, "kind of bored. My husband's out of town and I was wondering if you'd be interested in stopping by for a glass of wine."
Well, you can imagine the raised eyebrows on my viewers — all of whom knew I was married — as I gasped and tried to think of a good answer.
The rest of this story can be seen here...
Surprise Invitation from a Married Woman...
© - Donald Ray Edrington - 2006 - All Rights Reserved
Contact Information on Don Can Be Found
Top of Page