The Internet is an infinite wealth of resources. Gone are the days of encyclopedias and reference books; search engines are easier. Gone are the days of the record stores; downloading is cheaper. Gone are the days of the hand-written letter and even the telephone as a primary source of communication; instant messaging is just that: instant.

Teenagers have a strong desire to stay connected and to be in the know with their friends, especially during the free time of summer, and the Internet is providing Lakes Region teens that connection more than ever.

Instant messaging, like it or not, is a staple of adolescent culture and is here to stay. It is the quickest and easiest method of communicating with friends. Chelsea Williams, 15 of Windham, uses AOL Instant Messenger as her primary source of communication. Whether it’s making plans or shooting the breeze with friends, AOL IM is most efficient and available.

“I use it anytime of the day,” Williams said.

And she likes that she doesn’t have to worry about disturbing families late at night with the ringing telephone. While Williams does not have a limit on time spent on the

Internet, quotas are set for her as punishment.

“When I’m grounded, I’m not allowed to use it as much,” she said.

Teenagers flourish in a world of shorthand and slang. There have even been books published to define the newly-developed lingo. According to computer guru Ryan Pottle, 17 of Windham, the language began with hackers that used the frequently-used acronyms as codes.

This elite speech, or “leet speak,” has become just as common as traditional grammar. While the watered down version of the English language does not bother Pottle, he chooses not to use it.

Oftentimes, there is a barrier between chatting teenagers because they do not use the same server. Pottle discovered a solution. Trillian, advertised as “The Swiss Army Knife of Instant Messaging,” supports five different chatting servers. The chatting services of AOL, Yahoo, IRC, MSN and ICQ are all available in one free, downloadable package, with no included software, pop ups or spyware.

Despite Pottle’s knowledge of these resources, he’ll still dial a phone number sooner than wait for a person to log on. However, “If it’s not too urgent, I’ll just talk to them online,” he said.

Ben Toppi, 17 of Windham, and his friends have taken Internet chatting to the next level. They use a chatting application called Ventrilo, which allows users to talk to one another through microphones instead of typing.

“You could think of it as a conference call,” said Toppi. They have several channels in which they can either talk one-on-one or with many people at one time. They also utilize the system for their gaming. While playing “World of Warcraft” they all find it easier to vocally exchange game plans rather than typing back and forth. Ventrilo does cost money, but when divided nearly ten ways Toppi said the fee is worth it for he and his friends to stay connected.

Despite the common misconception, most teenagers are hardly interested in visiting actual chat rooms. They began as a trend does and ended as a trend does: abruptly. Tony Ennis, 14 of Windham, never used them to begin with.

“You truly never know who you are talking to,” said Ennis.

He uses messaging for the same purposes as most teens: shooting the breeze with friends. However, with death comes new life, and the Web log and other servers such as Freindster have taken the chat room’s place as a friend finder.

Friendster supports more than 19 million members and is described on their site as “the best way to stay connected to friends and meet new people who share similar interests.” One can find old friends, make a Web log available for people to read and share photos as well. MySpace is a similar Web log provider and is quickly becoming a must-have for teens. Web logs, or blogs, are like journals that are available for all to read. People can post pictures, music and most any information on their blog. Live Journals are also popular. They serve as diaries that are open to the public. Therefore, if you can’t reach someone online, you can read their journal to find out what they’ve been up to.

The modern teenager is a social creature. Why talk to one person when you can talk to five? The Internet provides the resources teens need to stay constantly in the know.


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