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AIM lingo develops to convey intention

Nov. 11, 2004

By PETER ANZOLLITTO, staff writer

There is a little yellow man in the corner of my computer screen who keeps me from doing my homework at night. He beckons me to click him, and this siren's call cannot go unheard. AOL Instant Messenger is ruining my life.

In order to be proficient at instant messaging one must not only be familiar with an obscure set of acronyms but must also be able to compensate for a conversational-communication form devoid of body language and tone. Although I lack these skills, I persist in taking down my away message and chatting in cyberspace.

Before one can properly converse online, he or she must at least understand, if not speak, a bevy of different acronyms. BRB, LOL, TTYL and JK are just a few of abbreviations that need to be comprehended at a moments notice -- nothing is more embarrassing than having to ask what something means.

Aside from vocabulary, there is also etiquette involved in IMing.

For instance, never leave your computer without putting up your away message; someone might think you are ignoring them.

The primary obstacle is there is no tone or body language involved in instant messaging, so it is easy for a message that was meant to be a joke to be taken seriously and things that were meant to be seriously taken as a joke. There are a few ways to fight this confusion.

Always follow a sarcastic or funny statement with JK or HAHA. This lets the reader know your intent. Occasionally you may say something serious that you wish you hadn't, you may also follow these statements with JK or HAHA and hope the recipient falls for it.

Never, under any situation, make an attempt at humor without qualifying your statement with the given acronyms. The reader will always take you seriously in which case an awkward situation will ensue.

Smiley faces should also be used sparingly. The winking one is a little suggestive.

The most difficult thing about AIM, which I have yet to understand, is when to stop. A simple click of the mouse to see who is online can result in two hours lost. Where did they go? I can't imagine, but I do know the little yellow man has gotten me again.