7.28.2009

R.I.P. AIM, I knew ye well

I believe, that we, as a generation, and I’m talking specifically about my age group and cohorts, got ourselves born at just the right time for the internet. So way to go us for pushing our way out of our mom’s vah-jay-jays. Young enough to have grown up with it, not too old to be confused by any new additions to it. (What is this Twitter of which you speak?)

But this post isn’t about us, it’s about the loss of one of the internet’s treasures. Specifically that of our teenage years. I’m not talking about Oregon Trail because while I do consider that a cornerstone in my childhood, you can still play that here. You’re welcome in advance. When I ate brunch with Meg this past weekend (after she washed the cheese off her face), we were talking and somehow AIM came up. If you’re new, and don’t know what AIM stands for, maybe just walk away now, because I’m not defining it.

Anyway, we were shocked that neither of us had been on AIM in decades. For something that was such a staple in our formative years, it disappeared for our lives faster than the money in my bank account. The Buggles got it right when they said “Video killed the radio star” and, if I may borrow their idea, Gchat killed AIM. You know why that little yellow man was always running? Because behind him was Gchat’s red M with a chainsaw. You thought that M stood for mail, but you’d be wrong. It stands for murder. But you know what? I’m ok with that.

One thing that I love about Gchat is that it’s not only socially acceptable, but expected, that you will choose your given name as your screen name. On AIM, how many hours did you agonize to come up with the perfect screen name? I’m not going to tell you what I came up with, because it was probably the lamest screen name on the planet. Think of what your screen name was. Make it ten times lamer. That was mine. I had a severe problem (and probably a neurological condition) with numbers in a screen name, so I had to make sure my name was original enough to not have AOL suggest something like “soccerboy12” or “iluvkitties07”.

Then once you get your screen name, you now spend further hours customizing with a unique font/color combination. To me, AIM will always be synonymous with Comic Sans font. And the most garish colors you could possibly pick. Bright green background with bright blue font? Perfect. Neon yellow background and red font? Amazing. That’s how you tell the world that you just love the Goonies or the Backstreet Boys. Or Smurfs. You know, whatever you’re into. While simultaneously giving them a migraine.

How many people did you know tHaT tYpEd LiKe ThIs~*~? (I personally went through a long phase of ending every sentence with multiple periods.....Yes, it was as annoying as you think it was.) Because alternating upper and lowercase makes you stand out. Actually, just those few words were the most annoying words I’ve ever typed. I guess 13-yr-old girls have plenty of patience. Or just very strong left pinky fingers. This was especially prevalent in their AIM profiles. (~*~i LoVe AvRiL lAvIgNe!!~*~) AIM profiles were like the proto-Facebook. You had your basic info, your interests, and probably a quote. And every guy’s interest was some sort of sport. And every girl’s interest involved “hanging with my girlies”. Unless you were going through your Goth phase, then your unisex interest was worshiping the Devil.

What AIM can do that Gchat and most other instant messaging forums can’t do is allow you to meet strangers in a chat room, which really is a shame. Because there’s no better way to make friends than by answering life’s eternal question: a/s/l? I tried asking this question in a group chat on the G and got crickets in response. Because you can only group chat with people you know. All the mystery is gone. You can’t pretend to be a 24/m/FL (weird…24 seemed so old in AIM’s heyday) which was all the fun of AIM chat rooms. You could be anyone. Or meet anyone. Which is probably why “To Catch a Predator” exists.

But meeting strangers online was all the fun of the internet back in the day…until you met them in the mall by Auntie Ann’s Pretzels and they turned out to be a total creepshow. That’s why most relationships online should have stayed online. Anyone out there have an internet bfry/gfry? I remember my older sister had a heavy online relationship with some kid from Burkittsville, MD, but it never came to anything except him sending some pictures of himself playing soccer to her and then telling her the Blair Witch Project was real.

I was curious as to whether anyone uses AIM anymore. So I turned to the best people I could ask: my little brother and little sister. They know what AIM is, but they say they haven’t used it. Being 14 and 16, respectively, and therefore at the prime age to be pretending to be 23 and from KS, but alas no such luck. With Gchat and Facebook chat and everything else, AIM appears to be going the way of the dodo. Bummer, they don’t know the simple joys of the interweb that we grew up with. Like accidentally sending a cybersex IM to your friend instead of some rando you met in the Teens chat room. True story: Talking to my friend Amanda back in the day, she out of the blue IMs me with “Now you fuck me in the butt while she licks your balls”. Nothing livens up an AIM convo like an accidental three-way. It’s the little things.

Overall, I don’t know that I’m mourning the loss of AIM. I get along just fine with Gchat. And since it’s tethered to my email, I’m only Gchatting while at work. Good thing too, because otherwise, I would be all up in AIM chatrooms pretending to be a 35 year old investment banker from Missouri.

55 comments:

Ushma said...

Holy hell, I was actually this exact convo just the other day! R.I.P. AIM...

Cassandre said...

OMG, Oregon Trail. My sister and I actually had a coorlating song with killing buffalo. Sad...so very very sad.

Caitlin said...

It is so weird reading you describe my teenage years. I spent way too many hours picking out pathetic screennames and customizing my profile with Taking Back Sunday lyrics. (You're a lush, and I hate it.)

I still sign on to AIM but it's rare I chat on it (except with the friend I spend all 8 hours of the workday on GChat with.)

But let's not forget the artful picking of AIM icons. I first honed my Photoshop skills on a 50x50px canvas (followed by the GreatestJournal 100x100px canvas, of course.)

And my 18 year old brother has never used AIM, for what it's worth.

Rachel said...

RIP AIM indeed. although you can log in to your AIM sn through gchat...if you happen to remember your password. i think mine was iluvphil or something equally precious.

BLSDforever

liferehab said...

I only use AIM at work (we don't use google as our email provider.. stupid gov't.) My brother has no idea what AIM is, he only uses facebook chat. And I loved oregon trail! And now I feel old. It's like when I watch "I love the 90s"

Grant said...

I'm signed into AIM through gchat, personally, but I rarely talk to any of my AIM friends, since they're mostly from high school.

Also I think texting helped kill AIM. If I want to ask someone something that isn't worth a phone call I text them now instead of waiting for them to sign on AIM (lol...sign on...everyone was always on AIM).

ashkindred said...

I still use the old dino!

Anonymous said...

away messages.... the original status messages.

We should have known AIM was coming to an end when you stopped chatting with people, and started playing away message tag.

and i worked the fonts.
and the colors.

my favorite saved away message were some keepers from college

"if you were ____ I'd be doing you"
fill in with laundry, homework, paper etc.

nothing like randomly hitting on everyone in your friendslist.. cause you can just ignore people you don't want to see and they won't know it---(mainly my parents-- i unignored them at least once a week so they wouldn't get wise-- but otherwise they were out of the loop) can't do that on facebook. nope you're either my friend or your not. I can't pretend that your my friend to be nice and then block you out of my profile and away messages until its squeaky clean.
of course i also can't make up another screenname because i think you are blocking me and i want to see if you are really online or not.

Autumn said...

oh AIM, god how i use to love that! i totally had an online boyfriend named greg, and it was pretty much exactly like your sisters relationship.

on another note, my screen name? HORRIBLE. u8mycherry. how terrible for a 14 year old. and my mother didnt think it was so hot either :)

Brittan said...

rebelyellow619 and, yes AND, roxigrrl...some combo of numbers. yeah. bad.

Anonymous said...

I re-discovered AIM after I started working at a firm where they block gchat. I have been trying to bring it back so that I have people to chat with during the day. I've convinced some of my friends to sync it with their gchat, but I'm still working on most of them. I keep telling them "technology is cyclical!" (quote?)

Laura said...

Oh Chris, I have a doozie of an AIM relationship story the next time we hang out...

Skippy said...

Now I have "Video Killed a Radio Star" stuck in my head. Thanks so much. :)

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Meglicious16 4lyfe bitchez.

Sole Matters said...

"You know why that little yellow man was always running? Because behind him was Gchat’s red M with a chainsaw." I laughed so hard at that! I cant remember the last time I used AIM..thank God for Gchat!

Anna said...

bahaha, i was reading this, our office got an email from LILxMSxASH...cmon lil ms ash, time to upgrade!

Anonymous said...

I miss when you could "warn" people and if you did it enough they would have to wait a few minutes before they could IM again.

Anonymous said...

what about the amazing sound effects? creepy door opening...cow mooing....ah, the glory

-nsyncgrl4EVR

Elizabeth said...

AMAZING POST.

Love,
Kweenbee14 (aka, white girl from the NY suburbs)

Christine said...

You just described 7th through 12th grade to a freaking t. Every now and again I sign on to AIM, but mostly just to see what my non-facebook using former hook ups (like the semi-pro paintball player) are doing these days. Though I never say hi, I do feel compelled to see if they've achieved their BIG dreams haha.

Fave things about AIM:

1. People using X's to denote how straight-edge they were.

2. Having a second sn used for creeping on people.

3. And who can forget the original stalker machine, IMChaos! You just hook up a link to your Webshots album and BAM, you know exactly how many times Andy Demeris looked at your photos! (Unless he was clever and typed "ullnevakno" into the address where his sn should have been)

Christine said...

p.s. I was blader1311 until Zoolander came out and I switched it to eugoogely. Awesome life.

Anonymous said...

Just like everyone else said, you described my life from ages 13-19. I definitely had customizable penguins as my icon...switched them up with every changing season/holiday. Oh Lord...oh and a/s/l! I used to make myself at least two years older, and definitely not living in my state. Holy shit I had an online bf too...a baseball player...haha thanks for refreshing the memories!

-boardchick1227

Maria said...

strangely, it's a battle between MSN and AIM for me, and I've only ever spoken to my mom and former Latin teacher on gchat. (who's cool? oh yeah, not me.) for some reason it's like this epic battle between Europeans (MSN) and Americans (AIM). I still use AIM regularly, but through a different program that doesn't have the charm of all the creepy sound options and crazy font colors, so AIM as a program may as well be dead to me. I also had a little online ~relationship~ thing going with someone I met on MSN that surprisingly would have worked out marvellously had it not been for the fact that we lived on different continents.

Loretta said...

AIM away messages were my early form of blogging. I'd write entire song satires about all the studying I had to do. And who needed to walk next door to see if your friends were ready for dinner? IM them of course!

Lydia said...

Speaking of video killed the radio star, does anyone even listen to the radio anymore? I keep thinking how technology has changed. Not only do we not use AIM anymore, we don't even use CDs!

kbb323 said...

in 6th grade i was JncoRoxy12 (keep in mind i owned 1 jnco shirt, yes shirt, and 1 roxy shirt.) i used to get booted out of chat rooms all the time for being 12 years old. no one believed that 12 was my lucky number... gee i wonder why.

also who remembers when a/s/l finally evolved into a/s/l/pic? it was creepy move that prompted my immediate disuse of all chat forums.

Mallory said...

Chris, you've made me so nostalgic on this Tuesday afternoon. I often think about the fact that Gchat killed AIM. I don't sign onto AIM anymore because anyone who ONLY uses AIM is too lame to even maintain contact with.

In college -- the heyday of my own AIM usage -- my friend and I prided ourselves on being skilled designers of AIM profiles. There was so much to consider: a reference to your best friends from high school; something that indicated how much you loved your college; a sorority/fraternity shoutout; a countdown of the days 'til Christmas break/the Superbowl/the first day of classes. Or you could have just been one of those simple, single quote/song lyrics kind of people. Beyond content, you had to choose colors and fonts and FUCK if I was going to respect anyone who used Comic Sans font. It was created by Lucifer himself, that Comic Sans.

Now all we've got is one measly status message and an unchangeable font. Gchat didn't just kill AIM, it killed the only forum for my unique creative skill. R.I.P. indeed, AIM.

xoxo,
mickmal37

debbie said...

hey that's pretty cool... http://www.geothermalquestions.net

Stephanie said...

This translates so well for me too, only replace AIM with MSN and Gchat with Facebook Chat. I only know like 2 people other than myself who use Gmail so no Gchat for me:(
(I guess we dont use AIM in Canaduh? I had one to talk to an American friend but I forget what it was)
I keep my MSN signed in purely so i can talk to my mom and occasionally my sister. I don't remember the last time I had a conversation with someone who doesn't love me unconditionally.

-(*)(L)(K)SaSsYcHiCk2001(K)(L)(*)

(anyone who doesnt use msn, the (*) made a star icon, (L) made a heart, (K) made a kiss...oy)

Deborah said...

ICQ and irc were my downfalls.

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Nolle Prosequi said...

How and where do you add one of these fonts to AIM, so I can type type with new ones instead fo the ones they give you?

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