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Get away with messages

EDUCATIONISTS, SOCIOLOGISTS and other learned persons are scratching their heads over a new craze that seems to have overtaken young Internet freaks, who are fans of Instant Messaging services. It is not uncommon to find that your average `campus surfer' has an online `buddy list' of a 100 or more.

Till recently, the free instant messaging facilities offered by Yahoo, MSN and others were great to check, which of your friends are online. Now, a new sub-culture has evolved to unleash the creativity of youngsters.

It's called the `away message'. When you are not online, you leave a message for friends trying to contact you. Most instant message services provide default messages that you can invoke — things like "Am away from my computer right now", or "I'm on the phone", etc.

However, it is considered too tame and square to post such messages. To entertain those trying to reach you calls for little creativity and these days, people pose the most weird messages to say they are away — a joke, an apt lyric from a pop song, a comment on the day's events... anything goes. The phenomenon has spread like wild fire across the Internet and the New York Times devoted a long piece recently to analyse this sociological trend. Another expert says away messages "provide a venue for developing and controlling the social network." In fact, away messages could go a long way in letting your friend know the frame of mind you are in.

Check this out... a girl quotes popular Hindi film songs as away messages — "Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe, Kitna bhi Humko Deewana" screamed out from the messenger box, when she was in a `I give two hoots to what the world thinks, I'll do my own thing' mood, or something like "Akele hain Tho Kya Gham Hai... ." when she misses her friends and the day before it said "Dola Re Dola... ..Mann Dola" because she had just finished her exams.

While commentators are ready to read some deep symbolism into the `away' craze, parents clearly are confused. "How can contacting a person who isn't there be a way of staying in touch," they ask.

Maybe we don't ever need to meet, either in person or online. Maybe the ultimate social contact of the 21st Century is to say, "Hi! It's great having missed you, but here's my two paisa worth of worldly wisdom and let's hope you are away when I try to contact you, so that I can know your innermost thoughts."

If you want to make excuses why you are away, make them with attitude or better still try saying, "I know my away message is more catchy than the others, so miss me more."

A. VISHNU

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