Reading Away Messages: A Pastime for Some Students

Tamara Durant, The Hilltop

A new phenomenon is sweeping across the country, particularlycollege campuses, targeting AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users: Theaway message is one of the easiest forms of self-expression onAIM.
AOL Instant Messenger users posts away messages when they may notbe able to respond to other buddies. When someone sends them amessage (“IM’s” them), the special message notifiespeople that they are away from their computer, or are currentlybusy. Away messages are almost an answering machine for AOL andAIM.
Since users have the ability to personalize their messages, thereare a variety of messages out there. Some choose to get creativewith their messages using personal quotes, or quotes from theirfavorite television shows.
Away messages can express a user’s view on any subject, includingpolitics and the environment. Also, poems and song lyrics can becommonly found as away messages. Some even put their own poems andrap lyrics in their messages as a way of showcasing theirtalent.
Some users put also a creative spin on letting other users knowtheir whereabouts. According to USA Today, “Students Have’Away’ with Words,” some samples of away messages are given.” ‘ZzZzZzzz,’ ‘Class till 2 then passing out for ever’, ‘Oops!I think I might have just destroyed a washingmachine.'”Freshman political science major FeliciaScarborough enjoys this type of message: “I have a friend whoprays a lot, and when she’s praying, her away message says ‘Talkingto my Father and I’ll talk to Him for you.’ I think that’s reallynice.”
For the not-so-creative user, the AIM and AOL services offer theirusers generic messages.The default away message is “I am awayfrom my computer right now.” However, some see these defaultmessages as plain and uninteresting. Aisha Ortiz, a juniorbroadcast journalism major, agrees. “Those are boring ones,probably because I’m so used to seeing elaborate ones.”
Said sophomore undecided major Chris Bailey, “I hate whenpeople use the generic ones that they give you.”
Individuality is also the key to a “good” awaymessage.
“Some people leave really long poems on theirs and get reallyinto it,” Ortiz said. “I like that.”
So what makes an away message entertaining? Some believe thefunnier the message, the better.
Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn, a freshman political science major, likesto be entertained by creative messages. “I like the funnyones. I really like the rude ones. I guess maybe because I’m a rudeperson!”
It may not seem that serious, but many students are taking noticeof the phenomenon. According to USA Today, “the practice ofposting personalized away messages has become such and obsessionthat some undergrads have based research projects onthem.”
It is clear that many students use away messages not only forpractical purposes, but also as forms of self -expression. Usersalso view away messages as a form of entertainment.