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How Do I Bypass My School or Employer’s Block on Instant Messaging?

I’ve tried every MSN Messenger on web and they are all blocked! Can someone
please tell me one that the school hasn’t blocked yet?

At my job they’ve blocked instant messenger, even if though it’s a good tool
for my work. I used to connected using one of the web services, but that’s been
blocked as well. Are there other sites that I can use without downloading an IM
client?

My school won’t let me IM and I’m gonna die! Help me!!!

I regularly get several variations on this question.

You might think that last one is a bit extreme, but let me tell you, it’s
not that uncommon. And I’ve had to heavily correct the grammar,
spelling and even the general tone of all of them.

But you get the idea. Instant Messaging has become a critical component of
social and occasionally even business life.

So what do you do if your school or business cuts you off?

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For kids in school my answer is simple: get over it! Seriously.
Schools block instant messaging for a reason – it can seriously detract from
the time you’re supposed to be doing other things. Like paying attention in
class or studying.

“For kids in school my answer is simple: get over
it!”

Yes, yes, I’m sure it’s not a problem for you. You can probably do
twelve things at once, and the teacher’s boring, and your friends in other
schools can all instant message at will. It’s so not fair.

I’m sorry. Too bad. Get over it. Focus on your school work, and talk to your
friends later – they’ll still be there. (And if they’re not, they weren’t
really your friends, now were they?)

For folks in business, naturally the answer is somewhat different.

Businesses tend to block IM’ing for several of the same reasons that school
does. It’s often too much of a distraction from work. On top of that, it’s yet
another way that information can leak out of the company uncontrolled. There
are also serious legal and liability issues that might well constrain a company
from allowing private conversations over company owned equipment.

Talk to your manager or your IT department. Make a solid business case for
why Instant Messaging is important to how you perform your job. Don’t make it
about chatting with the spouse or your friends … your workplace isn’t
interested. But if there’s a legitimate reason that IM can help you do your job
better or more effectively, then by all means make the case. You might get an
exception, or you might actually change company policy.

Or you might get no results at all. In which case I can only repeat what I
said to the school kids: get over it. Or, if it’s that important
enough to you, or perhaps it’s just a symptom of another, larger problem in
your work place, change jobs if you must.

OK, so what about bypassing the blocks?

Well, in case you can’t tell by now, I don’t recommend it. In my
opinion, it’s the generally the wrong thing to do.

There are a handful of web sites that will let you send instant messages
without actually downloading an IM client. A good example is MSN’s Web
Messenger – http://webmessenger.msn.com – which will allow you to IM with other
MSN Instant Messenger clients by using a Web-based interface. There are other,
third party sites out there as well which will do the same thing, often with
other IM services such as AIM, Yahoo and others.

Folks, it’s a losing battle. Find ’em if you like. Use ’em if you must, but
don’t be surprised if they get blocked within days or even hours. Clearly any
school or business that goes through the trouble of blocking these services is
doing so for a reason. And they’ll find out about the ways to work around it,
just like you did. Perhaps even because you did.

Another risk, of course, is that these sites need your account information
in order to work. Do you trust them? Do you trust them to keep that information
safe and secure? To be honest, I’m not sure I would.

Remember, depending on the rules at your school or company, you could be
putting your education, or your job, at risk.

I’m going to take the unusual step of not accepting comments on
this article for two reasons:

  • I’d expect a number of less than supportive comments from the teen and
    pre-teen crowd, who’ll simply argue using insults, bad grammar, bad spelling
    and inappropriate language.
  • I don’t want this to become a repository for a list of possible IM
    by-passing sites. I’m sure you can find other places for that if you look.

As always, if you have a legitimate question, you’re welcome to add it to my queue.

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