Class. Sick of Class. Nite nite. Helen C is my bitch. Class. Dinner. (Some inside joke no one understands). These are typical away messages my buddies post. Why am I checking away messages? Why do people do crack? It feels good at first and before you know it, you gotta get another hit (or click, in this case).

Take this situation, for example: You sit down to write a paper and after about five minutes, you check some away messages. Five minutes passes and you check some more. Finally, 10 minutes later you’ve checked Sara4526’s away message eight times! She’s still at the goddamn library.

People use showering as an excuse to change their away message, and every time someone showers, they apparently feel the need to tell the whole world. Okay, I get it, you’re clean. Away messages should be like white erase boards. When you lived in the dorms, did you announce to the entire hall you were showering? No, because who wants that pervert next-door thinking about you in the shower? In a way, buddy lists are similar.

I have 174 “buddies.” At any one time, the most buddies I have online is 95. Right now, it says I have 75 buddies online. I just did a quick count, and of those 75, I talk to about 32 of them. So who are these other people? Old high school friends (losers that went to community college), camp friends (they didn’t always seem this annoying during color wars), your old “study group” from Poli Sci 104 (the kids you got exam question notes from the night before the exam) and an ex or two (you keep keenly aware of their idle status on the late night). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still checking their away messages. Why? See above crack reference.

IM and away-message language isn’t as complicated as standard English. Just follow a few basic rules. Please, I’m begging, no more Smilies or %n, %t and %d. Let’s start with smilies. You don’t have anything to say, so don’t say it. What does the smilie with the sunglasses mean, anyway? And late at night, I get it, you’re wasted. I don’t need to see the smilies with the eyes half shut and the poorly drawn mouth — the “Ima druikd” message says it all.

%n, %t and %d are equally troubling. Thanks for trying to personalize the away message, but I know you aren’t addressing me as AndrwWisco00. Time, I better know the time. It’s staring right back at me in the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen. The date? Enough said.

Another away message faux-pas is when people put up away messages for just one person to see. It’s great that you’ve found a new significant other, but you can be more mature than putting up a message that says “Hanging out with Matt” just so your ex feels bad.

On the flip side of the yellow running man, we don’t care how in love you are. Keep your “Sweet dreams, Michelle” off the away message. You don’t buy Valentine’s Day posters, you buy a card. You would feel silly walking down State Street with a proclamation stating “I love you sweetie.”

Inside jokes on away messages are about as cool as Ag Hall in the summer. You do your entire buddy list a disservice by putting up cryptic away messages. This isn’t the Herald shout-outs page. Be inclusive.

I would love to see more creative away messages in the morning. Everyone needs a laugh before lecture. Telling me you are at class is as informative as temperature clocks on banks. Funny stories are great, especially about something that happened at class. “On Wisconsin” away messages prime you for the crazy camaraderie at Camp Randall or the Kohl Center. Away messages that explain what you are doing are good, as it keeps everyone in the know. Just don’t get Dr. Ruth personal.

Truth be told, we’re all away a lot less than advertised. Half the time we are sitting at our computers with an away message on because we don’t want to talk to anyone. But if that’s the case, then why do we care to check our buddies’ away messages? It must be the crack.

Maybe someday this addiction will spin so far out of control that I’ll find myself in some sort of rehab facility with no right-click function on the mouse. But until then, no matter how dull, sappy or refreshingly witty my buddies’ away messages are, I will continue to feed the addiction.

Andrew Fein ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.