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The Idiot’s Guide To Instant Messaging

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If you want to be part of the instant messaging universe, you have to get one thing straight: Treat the technology the same way you would treat regular conversation. Because I have the technology and use it a lot, I can say I’ve made some of the most common mistakes. Some of what I discuss is a matter of common sense – you must use it to stay in the game and preferably out from behind prison bars.

No One Knows Everything

Assume the person on the other end doesn’t know his or her IM client like you do. This means that if he or she is still listed as available and there is no response to your IMs, then you need to step back and let him or her find you. The more you try to draw a person’s attention to you, the more it distracts him or her from whatever that person was doing. Then when he or she does respond, it’s in a furious rage. If he or she tells you that they aren’t familiar with the software, then show him or her how to make an away message. The person will appreciate the help, but more than likely won’t think of you the same again.

Wait

If you don’t have that many friends in your life, treasure them. This means that when they come online, let them settle into their chair and grab a Coke. If you pop up on Instant Messenger as soon as they sit down, they’ll assume you were waiting for them to come on all day. The desire for human communication needs to be governed by the requirement that you have a little space between moments of togetherness.

Stick To A Single Conversation

I’m a random person and my mind goes to a lot of different places. If you cannot find someone like you, assume that he or she might not want to talk about everything you like. If he or she wants to change the subject, change it. A switch in the conversation doesn’t mean a lack of interest, but there’s only so much you can talk about in one subject. Message boards are better for that kind of thing as opposed to instant messaging programs.

So How Did You Get My Handle?

This is directed more toward those who use the dating services such as Match.com. When a person asks you how you found her handle, assume she doesn’t know how online services like Match.com work. When a person creates a profile on Match.com, their IM handle is attached, no matter which client they use. It’s better to email them first because that’s what most people who place personal ads will respond to.

English Majors Use the Internet

The Internet is open to everyone; this includes people who are of the academic world. Professors and students like-minded in their beliefs will be annoyed if you type things in broken sentences. Things like typing “Hello” and then hitting return to type “How are you?” pisses them off. Simply type “Hello, how are you?” in the same sentence. This shows that you have a concern for how your words are portrayed. Although this is absolutely silly and proves nothing of your character, it’s a safeguard against appearing to be aged 12.

Friends First

Whatever you do, do not engage another to get a date with them. Get to know them first before making that trip. It’s a lot easier for a person to know you only care about them physically when their picture turns you into a raving lunatic (and please believe we’ve all meet someone like that). If you do see photos before talking to the person, take a deep breath and a few cold showers. Any mere mention of the words “you’re attractive” after the first time you say them will indicate that you are mentally undressing her. Try to find some things you have in common with the other person. That can be difficult, but it saves you time and money if you know the person you are talking to is like-minded.

If You Get Blocked

Consider yourself lucky if she blocked you. That means she didn’t and wouldn’t want to spend time with you. It hurts to be rejected and it hurts even more when you push it and sign in with another screen name to find out if she blocked you. Whatever you said, whatever you didn’t say, it’s done.

If Another Person Uses the Handle

If a friend on your list lets someone else use their computer and their handle, wait until tomorrow. Remember, he or she has friends who can easily paint a picture about you that is closer to a John Walsh segment of America’s Most Wanted if you constantly check back throughout the day. The best thing to do is to get a schedule of her day and the best time for you to reach her online. Even better is to simply let her reach you. If you are worth it, then she will make the effort.

If Your Friend Lives With His or Her Parents DO NOT LEAVE INSTANT MESSAGES!

Depending on your status with the person, the wisest thing to do is to never leave an offline message if that person lives at home. Chances are that their relatives or parents will be nosy and attempt to find out about his or her Internet conversations. Being that you may not have even met for the first time, it will be even worse if suddenly he or she never signs back on again. Keep those conversations, lewd or regular, to yourself at all times.

A Name Is Just A Name

Some people have freaky names for handles, but that’s it. Do not ask them if they are what their name is, nor do you ask them how they came up with it. Doing this is a sure enough way to prove you are out for that one thing and will be a reason for them to block you.

Uninstall the Chat Programs For a Break

Friends don’t call every day, and neither should friends IM their friends to death. If you are an addict and like to chat, uninstall the program for a while and take a walk. Engage in the scenery and give yourself a chance to be alone. This way, your friends get a chance to miss you and appreciate your time rather than feel it’s a weight on their shoulders.

Be Yourself

Above all that has been said, there are some people who are going to think you are what you are not. Just accept that and move on. Not everyone who is wonderful is a person you’d sit next to on the couch. Not everyone who is weird is unworthy of your time. Let no one break your branches.

These things are rules that are tried and true, but like people, aren’t perfect. You should really do these things with friends you know offline to get a gist of how to use an IM program. In the end, you’ll be able to chat with anyone without feeling lost or sending the wrong message about yourself. Lastly, this is the Internet; anything and everything can happen. Make of it what you will as you would do with your ‘real’ life, with time and patience.

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About Matthew Milam