A love letter to AOL Instant Messenger

The realization that current middle schoolers were born after 2000 freaks me out. I am one of those people who still thinks of the ‘90s as only a decade ago. Seeing middle schoolers today on their iPhones, I can’t help but romanticize the days of AIM. Before Snapchat, G-chat, iChat, whatever chat, or BBM, there was AIM.

AOL Instant Messenger will forever be a piece of my soul, like a time capsule of middle school, sans the cream cheese stuck in my braces. Once TRL was over at 4:00 sharp, it was time for that little yellow buddy to usher you into an evening of surveying what your friends thought of the new Usher video, which black t-shirt you’d wear to the dance next month and many more world changing discussions.

Doors creaking open and slamming shut. The chime of that initial “hey” and deciphering the tone based on the amount of “y”s. Crafting the perfect away message to seem busy and kewl. If you were feeling fancy, maybe you did the old “%” trick to personalize it for your friends—or foes. It was your screen name though that really allowed you to express yourself. It was the very first time we learned the hard way the concept of presenting yourself online to others—friends and strangers.

It was the first forum for my fellow pre-teens and I to begin the morning-after tradition of rehashing gossip from an event the night before. In our case, it was the school dance where Jason danced with Melanie to “This I Promise You” by 98 Degrees. Now, this conversation is fraught with with mimosas and hangovers, and conversation revolves around Uber surcharges and work woes. But it all began with the “omg”s and the “g2g”s.

My first experience with playing hard to get was with AOL Instant Messenger. Matt, my crush at the time, would sign on along with everyone else for that pre-dinner witching hour. I built up the courage to IM him, and those moments between the icon telling me that he was typing and receiving the charming “yo” back were the most excruciating seconds of my life as of that moment. When he took what seemed to be ages to respond, I swore I would never make the first move again because this feeling was too much. It was during these moments I learned what playing it cool meant, acting like you didn’t care and no matter what, never sending the first message. Of course now I realize how silly those rules were, but nonetheless, it was my introduction to the age old dynamic of push and pull.

As a digital native, I am on the cusp of two distinct generations. I am old enough to have been raised more so by humans than Apple products, but young enough to adapt and understand technology. I am old enough to belt out Tracy Chapman in the shower, and young enough to revel in the glory that is the “happy poop” emoji. In an age of instant connection, It’s sort of nice to remember the time when we had wait for that annoying dial-up tone, that sounded like an alien cat dying, in order to be connected to your friends. Nice and also a relief not to have to do it anymore. G2G, TTYL! LYLAS.



(Door slams shut)

[Image via AOL]

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