Commentary

“Who’s IMing Me?”

The little window that pops up on my screen asks whether I wish to accept an instant message from NYRicanPimp4Life. To the best of my knowledge I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of having been introduced to Mr. NYRicanPimp4Life, so I decline his offer to communicate with me. Besides, I’m sitting in a new business meeting and it’s unlikely that whatever Mr. NYRicanPimp4Life wants to tell me is going to be as important as what Mr. PotentialClient4Today is saying.

A few minutes go by and now EmuVomit comes knocking on my virtual door. If I wasn’t keen on seeing what NYRicanPimp4Life had to say, you can bet your last dollar I care even less what EmuVomit has on his mind. And where are these creatures coming from, anyway? There’s a definite Star Wars bar feel about them, plus the distractions aren’t helping my new-business game face. Although Mr. PotentialClient4Today does appear amused by my instant message buddies’ names.

Later in the day WoodMelter tries to contact me and, though there is undeniable poetry in his screen name, I lash myself to the mast and resist the temptation to respond. Finally WytChocolate7 makes an appearance, which is rebuffed, and I begin making inquiries as to why I am being besieged by these disembodied specters, these virtual fugitives from The Night of the Living Dead.

The trail I follow is hot, and short. It leads directly to my son’s room.

“Who’s EmuVomit?” I ask him.

“Oh, that’s my friend Rob. Why do you want to know?”

“Because EmuVomit made an appearance on my screen during a new business meeting I had today.”

This gets a big laugh from my son, for whom the phrase “new business meeting” has as much significance as three random words in Gaelic.

“Oh. I guess I didn’t sign out of my instant messenger account after I used your laptop last night,” he says.

A recent study by Knowledge Networks/Statistical Research found that if American boys 8-17 were told they could only choose one entertainment medium, the Internet would be their first overall choice (38% chose it). Television is second (34%), followed by the telephone and the radio (tied at 12%). (US girls’ results differ slightly, which doesn’t apply to my all-boy household.)

It occurred to me, however, that the results of this study belie how kids use the Internet. As their addiction to instant messaging demonstrates, they use the Internet as a communications tool. (Email, incidentally, is seen as too formal, too slow, too old-school.) They also frequently use the Internet as a way to view television programming (these days we seem to be knee-deep in episodes of Family Guy) and share music (the death of Napster hasn’t slowed them down in the slightest).

So the 38% in the survey who chose the Internet were really choosing the tool they use to communicate, to watch video entertainment, and to listen to music.

In other words: telephone, television, and radio.

Is there any doubt as to where this medium is heading?

Can you say “ubiquitous”?

-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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