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IMs change college communication

Colby Pierce / Special Projects Editor

AOL Instant Messenger, or better known as AIM, is a very familiar device to college students. It is all too common to hear the famous "sign on" noise or the sound of outgoing or incoming instant messages in classes that have computer access.

AIM service began with the generation that is currently in college or just out of college. It was launched in May 1997, while many of today's college students were in middle school or early high school.

 Many students remember their first times instant messaging friends.

Some memories even consist of parents supervising time spent online to make sure correspondences were legit and safe.

Sophomore Beth Elmore began using instant messenger when she was in seventh or eighth grade.

"I remember it was hard to convince my parents to let me get AIM, but once I got it, it was definitely the coolest thing to have," Elmore said. "My parents monitored a little bit while I was on, but mostly because they wanted to make sure I was getting work done and not online all the time. We also had dial-up back then, my parents hated when I would keep the phone line busy, so I could never stay on too long."

AIM can bring many good attributes, but it also has a down side.

It can be a great way to stay connected with friends who go to different colleges without having to write mail or use the phone.

Elmore finds AIM useful.

"Instant messaging people is a great way to get in touch with people,"

Elmore said. "If I need help with homework, I can just send a quick message and know the answer almost immediately after I sent it."

Traveling abroad is much easier with the increase in technology. A student can travel abroad almost anywhere in the world for a semester, yet stay online and talk to a student at Elon or anywhere as if they never left. The only problem that exists is working through time differences.

Sophomore Marlaena DeHaven has been abroad many times. She knows how useful instant messaging is.

"One of my best friends is currently studying abroad through James Madison University in London for the semester," DeHaven said. "I'm used to talking to her all the time and I thought I would miss her a lot, but instant messaging has made it very simple to keep in touch with her."

Being able to communicate over the Internet is much easier than having to worry about the hassle of making long distance phone calls. It saves plenty of money by not needing to buy many phone cards and decreases the fear of going over allotted minutes on cell phones.

Senior Ashley McNally went abroad to London over Winter Term.

"Instant messaging made it so much easier to talk to my family and friends," McNally said. "It was easy; all I had to do was go to an Internet café. I had international cell phone minutes on my phone, but I knew my parents would kill me if I had a high phone bill for just wanting to keep in contact!"

AIM brings out the side of people that is not usually publicly seen.

Many people have become lazier becaus of instant messages. It is not odd for roommates to sit online and talk to each other rather than getting up and going to the other room to talk to each other.

These are not rare occurrences either. It can be nightly rituals.

AIM becomes very popular when assignments are due or when focusing on homework is necessary. That is when people scroll up and down their buddy lists—multiple times—reading each person's away message and profile.

Elmore falls prey to the AIM distraction.

"I don't actually chat online too much, but when I do, I get distracted and do not get other things done," Elmore says. "It definitely can take away from studying time."

Sometimes the best amusement is when a person on a buddy list updates their away message while the endless scrolling is going on. That means there is something new to read!

Some stalker-like behavior occurs through AIM. Many students' buddy lists can be full of friends they don't even talk to anymore. They are only on to be randomly checked for updated profiles or to see what away messages say.

There seems to be a birth of acronyms now as the AIM language. Many people use abbreviations such as, "LOL" (laughing out loud), "BRB" (be right back), "OMG" (oh my gosh), "SRY" (sorry) and "TTYL" (talk to you later) just to name a few.

These are used in normal conversation between people. Sometimes students' carry over the AIM language into normal communication, telling people "BRB" when leaving a room instead of saying be right back, which can be weird to hear.

Creativity is important when it comes to Instant Messenger. Each person's individual screen name has some reference to something—an inside joke, a person, a team, club or nickname. Each screen name describes who somebody is; it is a small lens into who and what a person likes.

Junior Alex Bodine's screen name was easy to come up with.

"I made it up," Bodine said. "It basically just popped into my head. I didn't have it until college. I had a different screen name until my freshman year, but somehow AOL cancelled my screen name and I was forced to make a new one."

There are other ways to personalize AIM.

There is an option to choose an icon, which is a small picture of whatever a person decides they like. Icons are available all over the Internet, and then all it takes is downloading it into AIM.

Profiles are a major area of personalization also. There are many options when making a profile. There is an array of colors people can choose from to make as the profile background or to use for font in the profile.

Profiles contain random tidbits of information for anybody to read. It can include dates of upcoming events, famous quotes, funny quotes from friends or a place to put what club or organization users are in.

Bodine fashions his profile to his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio.

"I always like to have something in my profile about my hometown teams, just to show my pride and loyalty to the teams," Bodine said.

"I want people to see it so that they remember where I come from and how much I support my teams—win or lose. I like having things like that in my profile for originality, because people's profiles get repetitive and boring, so I try to change mine around a lot."

Many people find blank profiles not only lame but also boring.

Some students did not use Instant Messenger in high school for various reasons.

Sophomores Marella Peele and Rachel Stroud were roommates together their freshman year. Coincidentally, they both hardly used AIM before college.

Peele said, "I used AOL instant messenger in middle school, but once all my friends got to high school we were just together all the time either in class, sports or extra-curricular activities. Once we finally got home at night, we either talked on the phone or did homework."

Stroud's reasons are similar to Peele's.

"I never felt the need to use AIM in high school because I was busy with other activities outside of school," Stroud said. "When I did get home I had to do my homework and I wanted to chill and watch television."

Both Peele and Stroud have grown to like AIM and use it daily.

"Now that I've been exposed to AIM, it definitely makes life a little easier," Peele said. "I cannot imagine going through college without its convenience."

Stroud said, "I do like how I can multitask with AIM. I can be listening to music, typing a paper and talking online at the same time. Plus the service is generally free, that always helps me out."

Instant messaging has grown to be used on many platforms over the years. The most popular form of instant messaging without a computer is text messaging on phones. It is inevitable to find at least one person in class or to hear the beeping of phones when text messages are received.

Contact Colby Pierce at or 278-7247

Do you think AOL Instant Messenger helps or hinders communication?

Ted Rolfvondenbaumen, sophomore

I think it's a good way to set up conversation, but it detracts from face to face society. I don't take the time to go out and set up meetings, now I just instant message.

Danica Sands, sophomore

I haven't been going online a lot lately because it wastes my time. I get more done without it on distracting me.

Greg Lavoie, senior

I think AIM is good. It's the new wave of communication. I think eventually we'll talk more on AIM than telephone. It's definitely a better way to communicate with friends.

Lindsey Winek, freshman

I think AIM is good for fast communication and to see what friends are doing. I think some people take it too far–if someone is upset they use AIM and not personal contact.

Fun Facts:

- In May 1997, AOL launched AIM sercice and made it freely available to anyone on the Internet.

- How many people use AIM?

- There are 42 million active users.

- How many messages are sent each day?

- Over 1.6 billion messages are sent each day.