Posted by: robinsonwarner | November 11, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance

I know I just had a post on graduating from college and going into the real world, but it certainly had me thinking about some of the other transitions we also make in our lives.  As we make our transitions into adulthood we change our silly voicemails on our phones that have inform the caller to leave a message after the fart.  We might start buying more professional looking clothes for our job interviews with the hopes that we can use these clothes in our new jobs.  We might start partying a little less and focusing more on our careers.  During this whole process, something very interesting happens to our online selves as well as our actual selves:  we start to move away from chatting online.  The older we get, AOL Instant Messenger/chatting online becomes the thing we love to tell our friends we’ve outgrown because it makes us seem older to do so.

Josh:  Oh yeah, I don’t even go online anymore.  I’m just so busy being busy with the business busyness stuff.  I’m so slammed.  I haven’t gone online since… like… World War II.

Matt:  Dude, you were talking to me online from the other side of the apartment last week for two hours showing me pictures of boobs.  I could hear you laughing.  Also, you’re twenty-two years old so you couldn’t have been alive during World War II and furthermore the internet wasn’t invented.  So… yeah.

Josh:  Whatever dude.  George was the one on my computer.  He loves to go and mess around on my computer.

Matt:  You lived with George freshmen year.  He transferred to Rutgers.

Josh:  I’m so busy.

And so on and so forth.  While we get older we try to separate ourselves from the supposedly “childish” things we used to do and the adult things we are preparing to do. 

Regardless of what you tell your friends about your online communication habits, the fact remains that most people will graduate and they will need to get a new email address because their college only allows them to use the college domain name for so long.  Most people my age deal with this by signing up for Gmail.   Gmail is a free email service provided by the online juggernaut Google.  It has lots of interesting features that your cheap-ass college email service didn’t have, but more importantly it has a chat capability.  It is an unspoken understanding that chatting online with AIM is for lame immature farty pants, but Gchatting is for sophisticated, graduated business-minded people.

People who are Gchatting love to let everyone know that while they are Gchatting with you, they’re also at work.  This anecdote signifies that you have moved on from your college email domain, thus signifying a tacit acceptance of  intellectual status while also let’ting people know you are actually employed somewhere.  This denotes a certain level of professionalism and maturity as well.  The perfect sentence you can type on Gchat is, “I don’t watch television anymore because I’m so busy with work at my job.”

The fact remains though that people are still chatting online in some way shape or form despite what they say.  People who use Gchat do not also use AIM.  It is cognitive dissonance on a very simple scale.  People are shunning AIM because it involves chatting online, while also embracing Gmail/GChat because of its online chatting capabilities.  What makes it so college graduates subconciously embrace Gchat for the same reasons they cast off AIM?

Screen names.

People are unbearably embarrassed by their screen names by the time they graduate.  They’ve usually had the screen name all through high school and all of college.  It would be like wearing the same exact outfit every time you went out for eight years.  You’re going to get sick of it eventually. 

Also, after eight years or so, what you thought was cool at fourteen isn’t exactly cool to have as the representative of your online self at twenty-two.  Someone could have four degrees in astrophysics, but as long as their screen name was “QtDollPhace69”  you would think they needed a helmet to eat their Go-Gurt.  All screennames are embarrassing in some way and especially when you’re trying to explain to people the first time you instant message them, “Oh yeah, I picked ‘BallerSupreme420’ because I was really into basketball and weed when I was fourteen.”  You’re going to sound like a moron no matter what.

The beauty of Gchat is that we get to avoid this whole song and dance and use our real, human names and not our projected, online, fictional selves that makes some grandiose assertion about a nickname we wish we had, our activities in our free time, our favorite sports team, or our physical attributes we want the online community to take note of.  With GChat, the only sort of profile you have has your email address and maybe your picture.

With AIM it had all those emo song lyrics about that girl you liked, plus the red and blue text about the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 as well as some “deep” quote you heard in Philosophy 101 that made you sound really deep, but Nietzsche was really talking about the deconstruction of organized and meaningful theism in the seemingly nihilistic twentieth century religious landscape and not about the importance of drinking beer every Friday like you originally thought.

These are all the things we want to be able to hide in our new lives as college graduates.  We’re not ready to let everyone remember that we’re still kids with our own immature misconceptions as well as strange desires on how we want the world to see us as.  GChatting lets us hide ourselves in plain sight with our own names so we don’t have to pigeonhole ourselves into narrowminded generalizations based on our online personas we chose when we were just children.  The reality is that we still don’t know who we are, but graduating from AIM to Gchat allows us to sort it all out in the meantime so we get to still talk with our friends while sorting out our own personal ethos.


  1. Haha i have a few comments…
    -have to say ive never gotten into Gchatting
    -id like to know where creepy fbook IM’s fit into this
    -i definitely was “talking” to a girl at some point in middle school with that exact screen name
    -and finally, ive heard web blogging is by far the most sophisticated and intellectually heightened form of online communication, thoughts?

  2. so not only do we chat online, but now we are video chatting. which, btw, i really dislike. not only do i always feel like it look horrible but now i am super stuck in front of the screen and feel self conscious about even scratching my nose. plus video chatting doesn’t allow you to browse other sites while chatting because you are expected to be looking at the other person. the lulls in conversation are even more dramatic than in a phone call. i am a fan of instant messaging, even though i am working really hard at work right now and am too busy to writing this. forget you read this.

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