From Our Readers

Remembering AIM

Two nights ago, I sat with my husband and some friends over the last few scraps of dinner and reminisced about AOL Instant Messenger.  Today, I learned that the company closed down the AIM development department.  I am, therefore, entirely to blame for the death of the program. I’m not sure how- maybe I used the past tense too definitively, maybe I startled The Fates into remembering a neglected chore (“Oh shoot, is that thing still around? Snip it.”), maybe I deserve this pain because my tone obviously implied a superiority, with all my facebooking, tweeting and laughy “Oh man, remember INFOS?”

But for real- remember infos?  When you chatted with someone on AOL you could click a little icon or something, maybe in the lower right hand corner, that would open up a separate window painstakingly decorated by the owner.  For the bulk of my AOL career, my Buddy Info boasted song lyrics and a single declaration at the bottom of the window: I love you, Mike!!!!

Mike was my boyfriend, obviously.  That’s a relationship status.  It’s also the potential for a wicked fight, should it ever go missing.

“I love you, Mike!!!!” could work for an Away Message too, as could essentially any lyric from any song by Brand New or The Get Up Kids.  Inside jokes with your bf4L worked great for Away Messages too.  So did “brb” or “bbl” come to think of it, if you were super boring or super chill.

Buddy Infos and Away Messages were only the most obvious outlets for personal expression.  I can remember trying endless combinations of colors and fonts in an effort to present my digital self in the most attractive light.  As a freshman in high school, I had a flirty Bradley Hand (pink highlight, white font) for a while, until that suddenly seemed pathetic.  As an upperclassman, I eventually settled on a 10pt Times New Roman (black, no highlight) that was deliciously nonchalant.  (Similarly, my screen name ranged from Froshchick21 to Carrie3197.  I know I don’t need to be embarrassed about that because yours was sexylexi or soccerdude or something really dumb.)

Also, I think I can finally come clean about my secret screen name.  I just threw an extra “r” in the middle of Carrie3197.  Amazingly simple, right?  Log on as my alter-ego, and I could stake out my entire Buddy List without anyone having any idea that I MYSELF was online!

I can’t remember why I wanted to be able to do this, but it was definitely awesome.

I didn’t set out to write a eulogy for AIM, but that’s what this feels like.  It feels like the end of a very profound chapter of my life, a chapter that in fact ended long ago.  I’ll always remember the sense of great possibility that came with an “Accept Message” dialogue box from an unknown screen name.  The captivating pastime of browsing through Buddy Icons.  The novelty of chatting midweek, on a snow day.  AOL Instant Messenger was my first foray into the world of social networking, at a time in my life when social networking was pretty much all that mattered.  I haven’t been online for years, and if I could remember my password and sign on I’m sure I’d find a deserted wasteland.  But I’d like to imagine a more climatic ending than that- a final farewell that sounds like millions of tiny doors closing, millions of Buddies signing off.

by Carrie Ross

Feature image via.

  • Lisa Luke

    uhm…aim still survives. i still use it every day.

  • Jessica Nahass

    Yes, AIM is still around, but people my age and the writer’s age used it only before other social media came out. Once myspace and facebook were around, everyone in our social group stopped using AIM.

  • Allison Clapp

    no way. i was JUST thinking about this same thing and how I used to communicate with everyone I knew. Now I can’t be asked to answer a simple text message. Oh well.

  • Catrin Morgan

    Man I remember being 13/14, coming home from school after spending all day with my friends only to log on to AIM and chat to them until food was ready. My mother always use to come into the back room where the computer was and say “You’ve seen each other all day, what could you have to talk about?” lol

  • Colleen Sweeney

    I used AIM religiously when I was a teenager, in the late 90s. When MySpace arrived, AIM went bye-bye. And now that there’s texting, instant messaging is rarely used.

  • Amy Rogers

    Ah, AIM! The memories! And while you say you can’t remember why you had a secret screen name to stalk your buddy list, I can only guess it was for the same reason I did-which is, to say, check to see if my boyfriend/crush was online, check if someone I really didn’t want to talk to but couldn’t politely avoid was online, and evaluate whether, if both were online, if it was worth it to log on to my regular s/n and deal with the annoying person with one word answers so the object of my aforementioned affection could be bombarded with annoying IMs from me. Basically, though AIM was awesome, I’d say I’m glad I’m no longer 13 and glued to it lol.

  • Danielle Walker

    OH my gosh. SO many magical moments happened whilst using AIM. A boy from summer camp asked me to be his girlfriend via AIM when i was 12…I remember being in the locker room in middle school saying things like, “Oh my BOYFRIEND was telling me last night…”

    And then freshman year, Joe asked me to go to homecoming with him on AIM…and that homecoming dance was probably the most uncomfortable experience of my life.

    AIM will forever live in my heart.

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