I was sitting at my computer today and I realized something: I spend way too much time sitting at my computer. Granted, I’m a college student and my options of where to sit in my room are limited, but that just makes it easier to justify the time I waste every day online, mostly instant messaging.

One of the lamest aspects of AIM addiction is that even if you have people on your buddy list you haven’t talked to in years, you can still keep abreast of their day-to-day activities by compulsively checking their away messages when you’re bored. The funny thing is, some of them are probably doing it to you too, but it doesn’t matter. Next thing you know, you’re finding a way to check on not only what these people are doing at any given moment, but to see recent pictures of them, who they’re dating, where they’re living, who else they’re friends with and what their favorite movies are. Honestly, what’s too much information?

Enter: TheFacebook. Think of AIM as a gateway drug; TheFacebook is Internet crack. If you’re in college and you haven’t had your head in the toilet for the past year, you know the deal: Upload your picture, add in some interests, list every single band you’ve ever listened to, girls write down your favorite “I love shopping and my best friends” “Sex and the City” quote, and guys write down that you like “Scarface” and The DaVinci Code. Then you browse through different profiles and compile a list of friends, some of whom you know and some of whom you’ve casually met. You can even hunt down people from your hometown that now go to other colleges — that way you can ignore over the Internet the same people you used to ignore in high school.

I hate the rapidly growing trend of communicating online rather than in person, but I find the temptation increasingly harder to resist. When it comes down to it, reading someone’s profile is just so much easier than actually talking to them and also carries no risk of them not liking you. Therein lies the problem: Online directories like TheFacebook make it possible to find out quite a lot about a person without ever speaking to them, which not only causes stalkers to cream their panties but ruins your social skills as well.

On top of that, browsing TheFacebook can quickly go from being fun to becoming a compulsion, just like with AIM. It’s not that we don’t know this compulsive behavior is unhealthy, its just another one of those guilty pleasures you know is bad for you but that you don’t care enough about to stop doing, like beating midgets and watching “The OC.” The Internet is so addicting that in many ways it has now become the most popular way to contact new people. A friend of mine met a cute girl at a party recently, and, as he was leaving, he told her to look him up on TheFacebook — no joke. The Internet has become a more prevalent form of communication than actually speaking to a person, and that’s not good.

If drug addiction damages your mental capacities, then Internet addiction damages your social ones. As with any addiction, admitting that you have a problem is only the first step. I’m just as guilty as the next guy, so I’m not going to be lame and say something preachy like “Seize the day,” or “Get out and live life to the fullest,” but I will say this: We need to sign off AIM and TheFacebook, and get up off our asses a little more often. Go run around outside, read a book, do cock pushups, or — God forbid — talk to a stranger. Walk away from the safety of the computer screen and risk spontaneous, awkward social interaction.

Communicating online is convenient, but no amount of smileys or pokes can substitute for real human connection, which is far more worthy of our time than TheFacebook connections. As for the compulsive behavior, I’m quitting cold turkey. I just have to put one more witty away message up, one last fix and then I’m done. It says, “Don’t you wish your name was ‘Not Being Here,’ because then I’d be doing you right now.” LOL, damn I’m original.

Conor Boyland is a sophomore mechanical engineering major.