For years I have been using ichat to communicate both with clients and friends. While I work alone out of my home, IMing allows me to quickly communicate and share ideas as if my "buddy" on the other end of the line was in the room with me. Sure it's not physical touch, it's virtual proximity at best, and it can be used lazily to replace true relational interaction, but it also can be a technological tool which builds community and allows people who don't work together or who don't live in the same locale to share life regularly..
So a bit selfishly I ask you who I call friend but don't IM, please consider getting an AIM (ichat for you fellow mac'ers) account. And when you do, drop me an IM at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add you to my buddy list.