“It’s a big way to procrastinate and probably does more harm than good, but feels good while you’re doing it, I guess,” Mike Kai ’05 said.
Get your minds out of the gutter, kids. Kai is referring to AOL Instant Messenger, commonly referred to as AIM or IM. Even if you don’t use AIM, you can’t escape the ubiquitous ringing noise of a new message echoing down the entryway. As a casual and convenient method of communication, conversations using AIM usually do not employ capitalization, full sentences or even — in the case of AIM slang such as “brb” and “ttyl” — full words. But even though most students said they consider AIM primarily a method of procrastination, it does have an etiquette all its own.
Checking friends’ away messages is a prime source of momentary entertainment while working, but even this seemingly simple act can have deep implications. Though browsing away messages is usually considered a poor substitute for actually chatting with someone online, it all depends on who is available.
Jennifer Shields ’06 said she checks away messages “very often” when she’s trying to procrastinate but said she has friends who don’t understand why she will log on only momentarily.
“I tend to log on and log off very quickly if there’s no one I feel like talking to,” Shields said.
But unlike crossing the street to avoid someone, there is no way to get away with not saying “hi” when online. When someone signs online, ignores you, then signs off, you know that the sound of the door closing means that they’ve found someone better to talk to. Kai said he thinks AIM makes it easy to snub people more than other forms of communication because, unlike e-mail, you can get an instant message and claim that you either did not receive it or were not at your computer or that it was your brother signing on AOL at home. The real AIM faux pas, however, is blocking.
While Adam Bray ’07 said he might have blocked someone as a joke in high school, he said he would not block anyone seriously. Anna Pelczer ’05 said she thought about blocking someone “a while ago” out of “temporary spite” but didn’t actually end up following through. Unlike these two cherubs, the rest of the world isn’t so thoughtful. Pelczer said she was “sure” that some of her friends had blocked other people, giving as examples people who IM too much or ex-boyfriends or -girlfriends. In most situations, however, Yale students were unanimous (or unanimously lying) that they would never block anyone.
“It’s a cardinal rule to not block,” Kai said. “If you’re ever blacklisted, there are ways to find out that someone blacklisted you, and that must feel really bad.” After all, with the ease of getting an AIM name, alternate names are sneaky ways to catch someone you who is blocking you red-handed.
AIM may be one place to avoid your ex, but most students do not consider it a good place to meet a new significant other. Pelczer said that while she would understand it if the person were “shy or not so comfortable,” she would not pursue a flirtation online.
“I feel like the least they could do is ask for a phone number or something,” Pelczer said. “I definitely don’t think it’s a good way to keep up a relationship.”
Kai also said he didn’t think AIM was a good way to further a romantic relationship.
“They can have no idea who you are,” Kai said. “I’ve been burned by IM before more than not.”
However for more casual relationships, most students said AIM is a useful tool to keep in touch. Bray said he goes online about three times a week for an hour each time and primarily chats with friends from home. But he said that when he is at home, he mostly uses AIM to talk to other Yalies.
Igal Aciman ’07 said AIM has been especially useful for him to keep in touch with friends from his native Turkey. Aciman said he chats online every day with the webcam he bought when he got to Yale.
“It’s very important for me to be able to see my family and friends with the webcam,” Aciman said.
Rather than good or bad, many people simply see AIM as a part of their lives.
“I think a lot of us have grown up with instant messenger,” Kai said
He’s right. And Scene is right about one thing, too: it’s OK to block Sandra8541023.
Get your mind out of the gutter.