Instant Messaging: New Waves of Communication

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Smiles03:’Hey, watcha doin?’
Star03: ‘Sorry, I gtg somewhere now… bbl, ttyl:)’
Smiles03: ‘oh, ok.L8r!’
I could spend many hours online in petty conversations without noticing where time has squandered off to, using the Internet chat lingo and emoticons of happy and angry faces.
If today was seven years ago, I would have finished my homework and studying before the wee hours of the morning. But with the technological advancement of mass communications through the World Wide Web, costly time has been robbed from students by Xanga, Friendster and typically instant messaging, not to say that it’s all a bad thing.
I remember being in the dorms and leaving on my AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) all night long or for even days just to take advantage of the free Ethernet. By the second week or so, practically everyone had AIM and later our dorm formed a directory of everyone’s screen name so we wouldn’t have to get out of our chairs to check if the person was in their room or not.
Every time I passed by the rooms, I would hear the all-too-common three-toned sound of instant messages (IM). We would go to Pippins or Commons with a group because it was easy to invite each of them all at once. There were times when we would play jokes on people pretending to be the person with their screen name and saying odd things to their buddies.
People would also put up those creepy popup links on their profiles disguised as a link for their pictures, and we would fall for them which scared the heck out of us.
Most people use AIM but it was actually ICQ (I Seek You) that began the whole shebang in 1996, which was created by four computer savvy Israeli men in their twenties.
Their company Mirabilis was acquired by AOL, which produced AIM. Microsoft and Yahoo followed by producing its own versions of programs that provided instant messaging functions.
Thanks to Mirabilis, we have the benefit of communicating instantly and frequently, costing close to nothing.
It’s unlike email, which can take forever for a person to respond, if at all. Instant messaging also allows us to speak with multiple persons at the same time and allows us to use chat rooms, which are useful for class projects or a group of friends planning an event.
Without having to go on Kazaa or Morpheus and wait for the high traffic to download music, files can be easily sent and received (unless a firewall has been put up) by friends who already have the files.
So many other features are present on AIM including dead AIM, which conveniently allows a person to use only one window for talking with multiple people and to sign on with multiple screen names.
With the profile feature, some bored people go overboard, elaborately embellishing their profiles and sub profiles with graphics, exotic fonts and colorful hues for others to see.
However, as with most technologies, instant messaging comes with some drawbacks including its addictive aspects, wasted time and it can open up security holes and bring in viruses that can dangerously eat up computer files.
It’s also not a smart way to socialize because it just makes one a hermit. Chatting online is not as personal or private as talking in person though because overtones and undertones cannot be distinguished.
Emoticons can only go so far as common expressions. It’s difficult or even impossible to tell whether a person is being sarcastic or serious.
Using a period over an exclamation mark or using big bold letters over small letters makes a huge difference in the tone of the speaker. And when you ask a person a question and there is no response, you might wonder if the other person doesn’t want to talk to you or is actually away doing something.
Not only can instant messaging be used on the computer, but it can also be used on mobile phones. This can be a good device to use to keep you from falling asleep in that three-hour class. However, just remember not to be addicted to this friendly technology because it can massively eat up your precious time and make you a recluse.

Annie Suh is a third-year humanities arts major.

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