Instant messaging becomes personal struggle

by Mark Pleiss

After glaring at my incessantly blinking Word Perfect cursor, I moved on to making those strange boxes with my mouse arrow on my desktop image of soccer legend Diego Maradona.

Having surreptitiously popped two of my roommate’s Tylenol PM an hour earlier, I checked the clock, waiting desperately for effects that would never come. It was 1:30 a.m.

I quickly realized this was going to be another one of those insomniac Simpson nights where sleep seemed hours away.

I yearned for any anti-academic, pseudo-productive stimulation.

I looked in envy across from my computer to my roommate who was typing away on his instant messenger. He was giggling quietly, talking under his breath as he typed whatever to whomever.

I decided perhaps I could do the same. After all, I installed AOL Instant Messenger a few years ago. It had sat dormant for several months, being only called upon sporadically in the early a.m. hours with minute-man success.

I double-clicked the image of the terrified-looking little yellow man with the blue halo on the other end of my start button, and my buddy list appeared. It had its usual pitiful display for Pleisy13.

Of the meager six people on my list, four of them were online.

For most, having two-thirds of their buddy-list people being online would be a good thing.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember who hellcatchzy12 and mynomadic45 are for the life of me, and the third name is of a person who would be far too sketchy to “instant message.”

I was left with youngin23, the kid who is always logged in, but never really at his computer. His screen name was darkly kissed with a grey font, indicating that person has been on for more than 10 hours and is either away from the computer, or possibly dead.

It saddened me that I was living on a college campus, a zenith of social instant messaging, and I only had six pathetic names.

I again moved my jealous eyes to my roommate. He had recently been greeted by two more friends. He didn’t notice my gaze.

He just continued in his quiet little virtual party where everyone was talking, but not saying anything at all.

How did I get into this situation? The answer is simple – pride. I actually do have friends, but I have never asked them for their AOL names. For some reason it always felt like I was asking them for a Valentine in sixth grade or something.

Don’t deny it, either. We all have that feeling, that little voice that screams “No!” in your ear before you ask anyone for their AOL name.

What if they don’t “instant message?”

The reason this little voice exists is because our generation is the generation grown up on instant messenger. It began when we were in middle school, and for that reason, we still see it as a middle-school-communication device.

It’s our little secret pleasure that connects us back to our puberty roots. But what’s great is it’s communal. Everyone knows someone who does it. Best of all, we don’t have to face up to it.

We just click that little button, and if someone gives us any crap, we’ll say our little brother got on under our name.

Instant messaging is great; it makes us feel good. It’s like the sensation we get when that old episode of Rugrats comes on when Chuckie is too scared to go down the slide. If anyone else knew, we’d be horribly embarrassed, but when we’re on our own, it’s fine. We even know everyone else is doing it.

So after this complex instant-messaging analysis, I’ve finally liberated myself from the IM stigma. It’s simply a communication medium with a bad rep.

Getting a bigger buddy list is the real problem.