Help! I Can't log off.

A new age communication becomes a new age addiction

I. J. Samson
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Susan G (Grade 9)

"No, no, no, no!! I won't get off!!! You can't make me!," I yell at my parents. They look at me funny and then whisper between themselves. I sit in my chair in front of my best friend, my Pentium75 personal computer, and clean a smudge off the monitor. I have now had a computer for the past nine years, and have had an Internet modem for the past two to three years. I have just discovered a new wave of communication: "Internet Chatting", and as soon as I get into it, my parents start peeling my hands off the keyboard. As they're calmly struggling to unplug my modem, I'm trying to type "Good Bye!!" to darknessrulz and Naveed.

Some may say that I have got a serious problem and should be admitted to the local mental institute, while others say that I've just got an addiction. "An addiction to what?," you're asking yourself. Well, I have this need to talk, but not just over the phone. I've taken a liking to Internet Chatting. This is a form of communication that takes place over the net where you don't actually talk to people; you write to people. And it's not just people that live around you, it's people all over the world.

There are many different types of chatting via the net. For instance, browser chatting is where you just chat or post messages through your web-browser into a forum and then receive a reply back within seconds. Also there is **PowWow Chat. This is a system that you can download from the Tribal Voice Website, and you can talk with up to eight people at one time. This system has many features, like Voice-Chat, where you talk to people through a soundcard and microphone, the DrawBord, which is much like Microsoft's PaintBrush only you have other people joining in with the drawing, Web-Cruise, and coloured text. And, finally, mIRC which stands for Internet Relay-chat. mIRC is a fast-paced form of chatting and pretty confusing to use. With so many different chatting programs, there are endless ways to meet people.

It took me weeks to come up with the perfect handle. "Handles" are fictional names that people are known by on the net. Your handle can be anything, and you can change it whenever to whatever you want. I go by numerous handles on the net, it all depends on where I'm chatting. Over the course of three years, I've gone through about six different handles just so I could find the perfect one, and I think every net-nerd has gone through that until they're satisfied with the handle that they end up with. I've gone through too many alternate personalities which now go by the handles Indigo, Indy, light within shadows, fReaK Of nATuRe, aquarius, aqua grrrl, and my most current AutOmATiC FlOwErS. I have come close to my perfect handle, with ~*AcId kLaSh*~ and SoCkPuPpET, which I plan to stick with.

During one of my nightly engagements with my lovely computer, which I have now been calling the Majik Box, I bumped into one of my best friends, darknessrulz, while I was chatting in WBS (Webchat Broadcasting System). darknessrulz, who has been online for about nine months, says that chatting is a fun way to meet new people from around the world. "'s just fun meeting people from other places...and cool people from where I live," he says while I silently admire the Kurt Cobain picture that someone posted. He puts the symbol for laughing (**lol**, which means "laughs out loud") up with his next message post, and says, "It's like Lays chips...betcha can't chat just once", which is extremely true because we all know how addicting those heavenly chips can get.

Naveed,another one of my closest friends, says that chatting is just a way to pass the time. You know how boring a teen's life can get at times. "It beats doing homework, and watching T.V. and stuff. And you get to meet a lot of cool people. It's just fun." he writes in an e-mail. Naveed has also come up with the idea of "decoys" to hide the application where he's chatting in case his father suddenly drops in to see if he's doing homework. The decoys can be anything from a project that you're writing up on WordPerfect, to a game of Solitaire. Naveed's most popular decoy is a website on Greek Mythology. He tells his father that he's doing an English report on some Greek god. Meanwhile, his father is wondering if Naveed is starting to worship the god Jupiter.

You're probably thinking now that Internet Chatting is just like talking on the phone, and sure it can get a little addicting, but, hey, that's no big problem. But I haven't mentioned anything about cyber-lives now have I?

So your best friend over the net is losing his/her connection for a while. Why not have a c-funeral (or cyber-funeral) to acknowledge the leaving of your friend? You can have the minister there to give a few words, along with some of the person's closest friends, and his/her c-family (cyber-family) to be there to mourn. You'd be surprised how much this happens. Along with the everpopular c-funerals, you have c-relationships, complete with affairs, break-ups, marriages and kids. Sure, you may be falling in love with a 54-year old man that has six fingers on one hand, but that's just a chance that you have to take.

"I think cyber-relationships are pretty cool. It's not really serious or anything and it's different from real life. It gives you a break from normal relationships," comments darknessrulz while I was still admiring the god-like Kurt Cobain picture. When I asked darknessrulz if he had been involved in any of these kinds of relationships, he just answered, "Yes, two. One with this girl named Professional Widow and the one that I'm in now." When I asked for his present c-girl's handle, he just laughed. I've been lead to believe that this mysterious c-girl of his has two heads and three legs, and speaks frequently of her "space master" back home.

"Hmmm..." Naveed writes in the same e-mail, "...he he... cyber-relationships are cool, unless it's totally based on me saying I look like Brad Pitt". And that's one problem with Internet Chatting - you never know if the person that you're talking to is telling the truth or if he/she is lying. I suppose when you get to know the person extremely well, you can judge yourself if he/she is lying or not. But wouldn't it be cool if you were really in love with a monkey-goat-boy?

All in all, chatting is a great way to meet new people from every corner of the world and, even though it's extremely difficult to log off once you've started, it's one of the best ways of communication that I've seen so far. It's all "mind-to-mind" so you can share your thoughts with someone and not worry about how old he/she is, what religion/race, what gender he/she is, or even what he/she looks like. Chatting helps make a doorway so people of all ages, sexes, and races can share opinions and thoughts.

I still sit in front of the Majik Box and I'm trying to shrug off the voices that are telling me to log off. I just don't think parents understand the importance for a 15-year-old girl to talk. Even if they tell me that I'll look gorgeous in a straight jacket, I don't think I'll ever be able to turn my back on my only love: my calling to cyberspace. =)

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