Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Instant Messanger

Originally written Oct. 10, 2004

This week I’d like to try and tackle another miniscule subject that gets on my nerves and most likely, many others as well. The subject in question is a small matter of Instant Messenger etiquette. Mainly, leaving ambiguous away messages and using the away message function as a virtual answering machine or ‘caller’ I.D.
With the increasing proliferation of instant messaging there have become practices in etiquette much like e-mail and writing Thank You letters (the olden days) that are used and/or abused. Such practices are the lack of punctuation, use of ‘emoticons’, and promptness of response. All of these can be debated among cliques of friends as to personal preferences and politeness. On the other hand, I’d like to focus on a few that bother me and just seem rude to begin with.
Firstly, if you leave your instant messenger program all the time, why would you leave an away message on all the time? What is the point of being online and ‘active’ if you aren’t going to be around the computer? If you don’t plan on being around the computer for a significant amount of time, please don’t bother signing online. Is the point of the away message to tell other where you are or how to find you, or to screen incoming messages? If it is being used for the later, why did you give people you didn’t want to talk to your screen name in the first place? If you don’t want certain people talking to you don’t give them the means to do so. If you happen to make the mistake of accidentally giving away your screen name then after the first time you screen their message you can put their name on a block list and not deal with them ever again. Now, if this course of action seems rude, it’s because it is. But could be alleviated by using the program in the manner it was designed to be used for: communication, not an answering machine.
Another sticking point is the blatant lack of information in away messages. If you are to use the ‘away’ message because you are not at the computer, then where the hell are you? I want to know where you are! So when I have nothing else to do during TV commercials I can incessantly check your away message and stalk you and see what you are up to at every point in the day. If you leave me ambiguous information for a string of hours or even days…it’s time to change it. I can accept that some people are not overly conscientious or just don’t care. It’s okay if you know this about the person, but if you are trying to talk to or get to know someone better, it’s just frustrating to leave messages and play “instant messenger tag.” On the flip side, there are some extremely over-zealous individuals who feel compelled to prove their intelligence or humor through away messages. This, unfortunately, should be left in profiles (a different subject entirely). It goes back to the idea of posting actual whereabouts, since you are away from the computer. The idea that you have to be ‘deep’ in order to describe your emotions or current place is silly by itself.
Things to remember and implement: make it simple, don’t be online if you don’t plan on coming back to the computer for days at a time, tell me where you are or you cell phone number so I can stalk you, if you don’t want to talk to me give a fake screen name, and stop trying to be so damned deep and profound.

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