“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

Couple of weeks ago I was the sound man in a wedding banquet in which I knew only 4 people. At the dinner table, I overheard someone say to another person: 「好耐唔見你上YM,重以為你消失o左添!」 I thought to myself, “消失” is a strong word. How can someone just “disappear” if they haven’t been on instant messenger?

To some people, instant messenger is indispensible. In fact, emails is already regarded as something the older generation uses, and the young generation doesn’t like emails and prefers instant messenging. Statistically, for teens, IM usage is preferred two times over emails.

Wendy and I have been using Yahoo Messenger for 6 years. I remember when Wendy and I were in our first years of marriage, we didn’t know how to handle conflicts, especially face-to-face. When we had arguments, one or both of us would just hide and avoid talking, sometimes actually going to different rooms to hide ourselves from the presence of the other. But the next day when I go to work, I would see her name on YM. It’s like, at that point, that I cannot hide from her anymore. She was right there in front of me (albeit via YM). Many times we would resolve our conflicts by YM (or by email if we had to say a lot at once). When Wendy and I talked on YM, we tended to be calmer and more reasonable and that helped us resolve our conflicts. Of course later Wendy and I grew to learn how to resolve conflicts face-to-face, but those first years showed us how valuable instant messenging has been to us. When we appeared on YM, we were like different people.

Another valuable use of instant messenging is at work. My boss, who I have to work closely with, has an office that’s about 15 footsteps away from my cube. But we usually only talk face-to-face once or twice a day for 10 minutes. Other times, he would be able to know I was at work by my presence on YM and on Skype. And I would know he’s “there” (whether he’s in office or working from home) if he’s on YM or Skype. Somehow seeing his little icon on the screen gives me assurance that we’re “working together.”

After thinking through all this, I now understand why that guy in the wedding banquet use the word “disappear.” When you don’t get to talk with a friend on YM, it’s like that side of the friend, that version of that person, has somehow disappeared.

If you want to chat with me, my YM is ahtim2@sbcglobal.net, my MSN is ahtimsir@gmail.com, and my Skype is ahtimsir.