Don't Kill the (Instant) Messenger

There are many ways to interact socially with peers in college. The most traditional way, of course, is face-to-face interaction. A bit more contemporary, but still relatively traditional nonetheless, is by means of the telephone. The most prominent, despite its newness, however, is the Instant Messenger. Whether you use AIM, MSN or Yahoo, everyone is instant messaging. It's not hard to understand why. How else can you maintain 17 conversations all at the same time and be able to understand what is going on in all of them? Sure, it may take you a half hour to respond to every person, but it's not like trying to have 17 phone calls at a time, during which - if attempted - your brain will actually melt.

Aside from the number of simulataneous conversations that one can have on an instant messenger, there are a lot of other convenient features, such as file transfer and also the fact that it is free. Some long-distance couples I know speak almost exclusively on instant messenger to keep their long-distance phone costs down.

This is where instant messengers start to cause their problems. My freshman year, I was involved in a long-distance relationship. My then girlfriend and I would get into lots of arguments because she couldn't tell if I was being sarcastic:

Me: The party was really great.
She: Are you being sarcastic?
Me: Yeah, of course. I hate parties.
She: I know... but I thought maybe this time you would have liked it.
Me: Yeah, maybe.
She: Are you being sarcastic?
Me: No.
She: Oh.
Me: I love you.
She: Are you being sarcastic?

As you can see, this caused some problems that wound up with us talking on the phone anyway. Unfortunately, the inability to express emotions on instant messenger (aside from the ones that Time Warner, Inc. has deemed appropriate for online use), is not the only problem with instant messenger. Another big problem is the people that use instant messenger.

There are 5 types of instant messenger people:
First, there is Normal Guy, who is the prototype of what people should act like on instant messenger. Normal Guy takes it upon himself to spell most things out, and to use punctuation when it can help the reader understand what he is trying to say, unlike No Punctuation Guy. No Punctuation Guy spells most things out, but never uses punctuation. This is a typical sentence you will read from No Punctuation Guy:

Hey man hows it going later on there is this ping pong tournament going on and Julie said we should go lol Julie cracks me up then she tells me that her cousin Rob is going to be in the tournament and then she goes I dont know what position he plays lol

A personal preference of mine is that people spell things out on instant messenger. I don't mind the occaissional "lol" (although I have never heard anyone laugh that sounded like they were saying "lol") or "brb," but some people make it ridiculous. Let's call this person Abbreviation Guy:
OMG! Wz up? L8tR on, me & Mark R gonna go 2 the mall bc DQ was clzd when we went b4. U wanna go 2?

What did the words "too" and "before" do to you, Abbreviation Guy, that caused you to feel the urge to ignore their existence?

None of these annoying instant-message artists even holds a candle when it comes to the mother of all annoyances, however, which is Annoying Font Guy. This person has not only made it their mission to choose the most annoying font possible in which to type - either a very small cursive font, or a very large cartoony-looking font - but they have also decided to give you a headache every time they send a message by making their messages even more difficult to read by having a horrible color combination, like yellow type on a white background.

Worse than of all of these, however, is Combination Guy, who chooses to take one or more of the aforementioned characteristics and to use them in his or her online barrage, at which point I think I speak for everyone when I say thank God for the block list.

Also appeared in the May 5 edition of the MU Student News, except for the paragraph in large yellow type. That was a Taftese exclusive.