Most people’s first experience with an away message came on AOL Instant Messenger. AIM became famous for its cryptic, dramatic-song-lyric away messages-nothing signaled interpersonal drama quite like “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”-but more often it was “Out to dinner” or “Homework.” It always communicated the same thing: I’m not here right now, so don’t try to chat with me. Away messages helped users understand why their buddies weren’t responding. More important, away messages offered permission to actually go away. The good news is, users are starting to recognize the value of getting away for a while. More realistically, every messaging app should have an away message option. The first time you send it, the recipient might be confused-after all, nobody has seen an away message in a while.
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