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.