Are We Misusing The Chat?

/ February 8, 2017/ In Between/ 0 comments

It’s easy to blame the users for a software or an application. We developers can easily say users are using the apps wrong. But the truth is, applications, either in business or for personal use, encourage specific behaviors. Software development companies treat an application as a product of design with a specific outcome in mind. But most of the time, we use tools as they were NOT intended to be, and follow the patterns suggested by the design.

Take a look at chat tools like MS Communicator, Campfire, Hipchat, and even Skype. Nowadays, most businesses use these chat tools to communicate. However, the method and manner in which they choose to communicate has a major influence on how we work and how we feel about the work. Nowadays, we see chat as a form of stress and not as a tool anymore.

As a tool, group chat is good for:

1. Tossing an idea back and forth between a few people. The keyword there is “few”. Toss in a few words, give a few ideas to get the picture, to a few people, in order to get a few feedback. That’s it. Move on. Return to work.

2. Red alerts. Guys, the server is down! Guys, I need your help! Chat is a quick way to get immediate attention and give critical announcement in real time. The keyword there is “critical”. It means it’s urgent AND it’s important.

3. Having fun. Fun at work is as important because it provides balance. Chat really works well with fun. It develops a work culture — inside jokes, the use of emoji, goofing around with sounds, and meme generators — something that defines any organization. Chat becomes a virtual water cooler type of conversation to break the monotony of work.

4. A sense of belonging especially for people who work remotely. Having a chat room where someone can just say good morning, let people know I’m out for lunch, and generally just feel part of a group is a powerful antidote to loneliness.

However, group chat can be a source of stress when:

1. It brings mental exhaustion. Following group chat all day feels is like attending an all-day meeting with no agenda. Constant conversation, constant chatter, no start, no end. Everyone can decide not to pay attention, but that leads to a fear of missing out (FOMO).

2. It brings a negative sense of ASAP. ASAP literally means “as soon as possible”. However, ASAP equates to “Now!” these days because of group chat. The real-time communication that a chat brings has changed the true meaning of ASAP to “Now!” But it turns out, very few things require immediate attention.

3. People fear of missing out or not having a say. If we’re not paying attention, or if we’re away for quite some time when something comes up on chat, then the tendency is to feel that we lost track of the conversation. So our immediate reaction will say something to catch up. Hey, what’s that all about? Eventually, this encourages us to watch chat conversations the whole day to see if something comes up so that we could say something and feel that we belong.

4. Chat reminds us that we’re behind. Group chat often causes “return anxiety”  —  a feeling of dread when we’re away for a while and we return to a pile of unread lines. Are we supposed to read each one? If we don’t, we might miss something important, you know. So we read up, scroll, or skip out at our own risk and try to piece together talks about other things we haven’t read yet. And just when we’re caught up, we’re already behind again. It’s like we’re working two jobs —  the work we’re supposed to do, and the work of catching up on what we missed that probably didn’t matter (but we won’t realize until we read back).

5. It becomes the basis of our presence. Many chat platforms put a little green dot next to people telling everyone that we are online or available. That’s called presence. However, it could get worse than we might expect. It has paved way to professional pressure to stay logged into the chat room. It’s almost saying “if you aren’t green, you aren’t at work”. Quitting chat suggests we aren’t part of the group. And that pressure forces us to keep a chat room open all day. Which forces us to absorb the blows of all-day distractions while we’re trying to actually get the work done we’re supposed to be doing.

There are many other things to add about this topic but that could come some other time. Another “ping” is heard and it could be the boss talking.

How do you feel about this topic? Let us know by writing a comment below.

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