How to Annoy People Using Instant Messaging


Instant messaging can be great as a tool for collaboration, but it can also be disruptive and annoying. We wrote before about how to screw up an email negotiation. Now let’s see how you can use IM to bother your favorite and not-so-favorite work associates.

Remember that instant messaging is synchronous, intrusive, and often tedious: in other words, an ideal platform for making a pest of yourself.

Disregard any presence indicators your colleagues use such as busy or away. Your needs are more important than anyone else’s and you know that some people regularly set their IM status to busy or away even when they’re working on unimportant stuff. Bonus: if you catch someone at the computer when she says she’s away, berate her for it. She needs to set her presence indicators according to your needs not her own.

Never check whether a person has time to chat. If he’s online and reachable, he’s all yours! In particular, make sure you never ask about someone’s availability for a work-related chat at these special times of day: in the late afternoon, when he might be trying to finish his work so he can go home; early in the morning, when he might be taking advantage of quiet time to be productive; and the middle of the night, when, if he’s on the computer at all, he’s probably not thinking about work.

Don’t set your own presence indicators when you’re busy or away from the computer. That way people trying to get a quick answer from you will feel first hopeful and then frustrated. Long term, you can utterly confuse the people you work with by setting one IM account to “busy,” one to “away,” and one to “available,” making them into random noise. Then, when someone IMs you on the “available” account, chew him out for bothering you when you’ve got something important to do.

Don’t pause to give the person a chance to respond. Stream-of-your-own-consciousness is a great way to show that you matter and your conversational partner doesn’t. Ask a question, and then ask another, or answer it yourself. Type each sentence with a “…” after it so you can indicate that you have more (and more… and more…) to say.

But when you do pause, expect instantaneous replies. When someone is IM’ing with you, she should only be IM’ing with you, not doing anything else. You should expect her to close down all other chats, turn away completely from whatever she was doing, and give you her full attention.

Consider instant messaging as a way of getting personal therapy. This works especially well with your busiest and most driven associates. It’s good for them to help another. They need to be exposed to the reality of the human condition with all its angst and ennui. Don’t hold your pain inside–instant messaging equals instant catharsis. There. Don’t you feel better now?

Don’t ever use correct capitalization or punctuation. ur 2 kewl 4 dat! You feel comfortable with the brave new world of IM, why shouldn’t everyone else? Shift keys are for sissies.

Expect that IM conversations will always be like phone conversations, with a definite goodbye at the end. If your colleague hasn’t signed off, that means the discussion is still going, so keep on typing messages even if you’ve found out what you need to know. Don’t notice when the pauses between your entries and the responses get longer and longer and longer. The longer you keep the session going, the more likely you are to annoy.

Send large files without asking whether it’s okay. You know better than anyone what people need. Don’t have any qualms about using up other people’s download bandwidth and hard drive space.

Sprinkle emoticons liberally into your messages. One in a sentence is good, two is better, three provides maximum distraction and visual harassment. Don’t know all the ones you can use? Bookmark the one you need: AOL, GTalk, MSN, and Yahoo.

Try out all the abbreviations you can think of. Learn new ones every day, so you can be as compact and opaque in your communication as possible. Don’t stick with the ones everyone knows–lol (“laughing out loud”), brb (“be right back”), and np (“no problem”). Try out some new ones, especially on people you know are likely to be unfamiliar with them. How about ptmm (“please tell me more”) or wdalyic (“who died and left you in charge”) or issygti (“I’m so sure you get the idea”)?

You may disagree about whether some of these ways of using IM are irritating or not. That’s part of IM’s unique ability to annoy–no one quite agrees on its proper use.

What irritates you most about instant messaging?



A new abbreviation courtesy of Dimitri Martin (Comedy Central Special recently aired):
LQTM instead of LOL.
LQTM= Laughing Quietly To Myself.
Martin argues that it’s more honest. And I agree. :) :) :) :) :) :)


A funny posting, precisely because it’s the truth. I shy away from Instant Messaging for many of the reasons listed above. It’s similar to fretting because someone is “not picking up” their cell phone; perhaps it’s because they’re busy… or being pestered by someone else.


Actually, I think how people use shortened words is… lazy. People even use shortened words from already shortened words, and that gives me the impression that perhaps the english language is detoriating. I don’t always use capitals when I type in MSN, but I do use proper grammar and punctuation.

Another thing is how people exploit the ability to nudge someone in MSN. I’ve disabled it, but when there wasn’t an option to disable, I just signed off when someone wanted to piss me off with it.

One more: when I set my status to “busy” or “away”, I actually MEAN it, yet people still start a conversation with me. I understand if there was a “Hey, you’re busy, get back to me” message, but saying “hey, how are you?” is something else.


I just wanted to say I love your blog. And so far your’s was the only one I found yet, that didn’t bore me.


I have a friend/co-worker that will IM me with all kinds of info/links/etc. even if we are sitting next to each other. I’m very social, so that’s weird in and of itself to me. But when he starts these long threads about his ideas for re-factoring some code in a shared PHP library, or developing for some new project and he wants some input, it’s frustrating because I’ll get 2-3 screenfuls of content over Trillian and the expectation that I’m supposed to drop whatever I’m doing and digest this via IM.

I’ve talked to him about it on several occasions to no avail, so as soon as an IM conversation starts veering that direction I turn off my IM client and tell him to talk to me in person if he wants help. I’m all for helping out people, but trying to discuss code over an IM is too much of a pain to handle properly.


I despair of the intrusiveness of IMs that I gave them all up in 2001 and have never since logged onto a single one since.
MSN, ICQ and Yahoo can all go jump.
Blasted things ;-)

Still, they served a purpose at the time *poignant*

– Solo xx


All of that is so true. However you forgot finding out their password and deleting all of their other friends.


Great list. I’m going to forward it to my team and hope they learn something. One additional annoyance for the list — IM your coworker to tell him/her that you sent them an e-mail. Nothing like redundant communication to annoy the cr@p out of me.


Oh GOD! ‘lol’ is the most annoying thing ever! Forget the rest, ‘lol’ should be at the top of that list. I can’t count how many times I’ve patiently ‘listened’ and given advice to my friends, and then recieved nothing but ‘lol’ in response to my own troubles. Die, thee who uses ‘lol’!

I must admit to over-using emoticons. *Embarassed* My boyfriend made me stop using the dancing cow. :(

Oh, and there’s another which I have’nt had the pleasure of trying out yet: In a group conversation, persuade all but one person to change their username and font to the same thing. The poor victim won’t be able to tell who’s who. :D


Ha ha. Hilarious and effective.

The question is, what if someone uses these tips to annoy you. right, you? Just asking?


This is utterly hilarious. One thing to remember, though, is that although it’s okay for you to say as much as you want to the other person, if they start talking about their lives, you should dismiss them with a “lol :)”. They can never be as important as you.


What irritates you most about instant messaging?

definitively some CRAZY icons people on MSN messenger use _and_ expect you can see/like

also nudges are “welcome” :-(

permanent hater

Nice list.

I will never understand why people switch their status on IM to “busy” or even “away”. What the hell people – just turn off the damn IM! If you’re connected, I will IM you regardless of your status.


would assume it means someone busy on msn and don’t wish to be disturbed:s


Don’t forget to call and email the person at the same time as the IM conversation, it really adds to the annoyance factor. Make sure you reference information from the two other forms of communication, so that they have to listen as well as read the email and IM to follow along.

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