I am worried. Appalled even. I am concerned with the future of our generation. I know you might be thinking that this is a huge issue for a measly sex columnist to tackle. I mean, one day it’s polishing knobs, and the next the survival of today’s youth. But this alleged “information age” has become a source of severe trepidation for me. Everyone these days uses weird words like gigabytes and megabytes and hard drives and floppy disks and mp3s, and I’m left very confused. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, I cry. I’m human.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my computer. In fact, I think I love it a little too much. That is precisely why I’m worried. Quite frankly, I experience severe separation anxiety every time I walk away from Harvey’s glowing screen (that’s his name). But the real source of the problem is not Harvey. He’s just trying to do his job. And he’s really sweet. He always picks up my mail for me and tries to save me when I have a virus (which I am quite prone to). I think Harvey has a crush on me. Sometimes instead of “Fatal Exception” errors he sends me “I’d like it if we could make love tonight” errors. But we could never date, we would spend way too much time together. Plus, his hard drive is a little too small.

The real problem lies in two very evil entities. The first is e-mail. You might think that e-mail is a good thing. I did too at one time. But e-mail has a dark side. It’s evil. The second is a little thing people refer to as AOL Instant Messenger, simultaneously the best and worst invention of our time. AOL Instant Messenger lets me talk to anyone I want in real time, without paying a penny. Granted, this is great, I have tons of friends in Bangladesh, and I’m thrilled that I’m able to keep in touch with them. They’re my (starving) dawgs.

But, IM-ing has ruined every romantic relationship I have had since I have been in college. The information age has changed the face of dating, and I’m thoroughly unimpressed with it.

AOL Instant Messenger is deceiving. Even in its name. It is not a messenger, because nothing ever gets across the way it’s supposed to. You are typing words — there is no body language, no voice intonations, nothing that really makes human interaction, well, human interaction. Everything that you can say in a conversation in two minutes takes 45 minutes on IM. Plus, to that 45 minutes, you have to add an additional 12 minutes while you apologize for sending that person the “wrong IM” because you’re so busily engaged in conversation with your friend’s friend whom he happened to put on your buddy list when he was drunk and in your room after the Harvard-Yale Game.

After you have “signed off,” you have to make a phone call to the person that you have offended because you are so nervous that your apology was interpreted as sarcastic instead of sincere (like you meant it to be). Therefore, the phone call completely negates the whole idea of IM-ing in the first place, and all of a sudden it’s midnight and you haven’t done anything except tell bigpimpin72 that you really have a crush on him. Which he initially interpreted as you telling him that you needed immediate sexual release and that he was the one to provide it. How he derived one from the other, I’m not really sure.

These experiences are harrowing to say the least. IM-ing, I am certain, is the work of the devil. Yet, I am sad to report that I am addicted to IM. I have tried to wean myself off of it, but it hasn’t worked. Sometimes I will find myself late at night, trying to get to sleep — maybe I’m wearing lingerie, maybe not — attempting to formulate a witty away message. And invariably, I come back to it. It’ll creep up on me without notice, and there I am again, on a Sunday afternoon, glued to the screen, waiting for my friends, all under one pseudonym or another — devlgrl321, cock54, lickitstickit99, pradaboy411 — to contact me.

At first, I wondered what the big deal was, why people are so gung-ho about IM-ing one another at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday. It’s all in the anonymity. IM-ing allows us to move away from who we really are, and places us in this world where we are able to edit our words, to actually see them written down before we send them off. People all of a sudden become more confident. I hate confident people. They say stupid stuff. Some confident people think it’s all right, that it is SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE, to get sexual during an IM conversation.

I hate to break it to you. It’s not.

There is nothing sexual about sitting in front of your computer, without blinking for minutes at a time, telling the person on the other end that you’re touching yourself. Or telling them that you want to “lick their [insert body part here].” Getting sexual on IM is DISGUSTING. You are typing explicit acts into your computer, waiting for the other person to respond to you. WAITING. And WAITING. For them to write something like, “No, I want to lick you.”

Well, you can’t lick me, because I haven’t showered in three days and I’m sitting in front of this screen with a bag of Doritos and four and a half pages of a 15-page paper written. No licking will be taking place.

Another terrible thing about IM is the fact that you never know WHO is really speaking to you. Some people enjoy lending their IM to others so that they can torture other people. Furthermore, your conversations are documented. They can be saved and cut and pasted, altered and doctored. Your IM conversations can and will be used against you in the court of law. Imagine, for just a second what would have happened had Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky had IM. It would have been a whole different ball game, ladies and gentlemen.

Also, don’t think, for just one second, that when my crush is IM-ing me, I don’t cut and paste those conversations into an e-mail and forward it to all 120 people on my mailing list.

And that, once again, leads me to the second evil. E-mail. People lie on e-mail. They do it all the time. It is the easiest and most underhanded way to communicate in the world. The best e-mail I have ever gotten was from a boy I made out with at a party. Innocent and sweet, it was a one-liner, short and to the point. It read:

“Hey — wanna get coffee sometime?”

I replied that same day, saying that it would be a pleasure. I never heard from him again.


He lied. He lied and didn’t even feel bad about it, because it was on e-mail and because he never feels any remorse for anything. The funniest thing about e-mailing is that you never have to mean what you write because it’s so easy to lie. Yet, because it’s written down, for some reason, people automatically believe it. How many times have you blatantly deceived someone via e-mail.

“Dear Professor Shiller,

“I am unable to submit my problem set this week because I have been ill and due to an unfortunate incident, involving my pet rats and the SPCA, I have been shot in the hand. In light of this I will never be able to submit another problem set again.

“Thank you for your understanding.”

The above is clearly a false statement, but by adding a signature at the bottom including your PO Box number and e-mail address, it becomes very believable. Professional even.

After a few days, I figured that the aforementioned lucky guy who got to make out with me might stupidly be applying the three-day phone call rule to e-mail. He wasn’t. He was just lying.

Which leads me to my next complaint. YOU CANNOT APPLY PHONE RULES TO E-MAIL. Everyone knows that we are in college. Everyone I know at Yale has a close relationship with two things — their computer, and their right hand. In short, you check your e-mail nearly 250 times a day, and masturbate at least 255 times.. You should have the decency to e-mail someone back the same day they write to you. It’s common courtesy. Just use your damn left hand.

The information age is devastating. I mourn the dat
ing life of today’s 13-year0old girl who may only communicate with her crushes via IM for the rest of her life, and those crushes may be, unbeknownst to her, 45 years old, unemployed and unusually hairy. No more phone calls, because now even cell phones can receive e-mails. No more handwritten notes, because he is probably transmitting messages across English class with his Palm Pilot. We are doomed — and it’s all because of information technology. In becoming more advanced, we have stopped actually speaking with one another, and I have to be honest — I am pissed.

Natalie Krinsky is away from her computer right now.