AOL instant messenger. You remember the buddy lists, the BFFs, the angsty pop-song-lyric away messages, and best of all—the screen names. Even if you were an MSN or Yahoo! messenger user, you know what I’m talking about. Despite all that late 90s nonsense, AIM was a brilliantly addicting platform, and it played an integral role in shaping the communication habits of an entire generation.
Can you remember the very first time you interacted with “social media”? For me, I guess it would be passing love notes on pieces of ripped paper at recess in first grade. But the first time you accessed the Web for social media?
I think I can speak for quite a few millennials when I say that my first experience with social media was instant messaging on AIM. (You may recognize me by my other names: puppykdd, or—in my much more mature years—pinklassie32).
In my prime, I was IM-ing for hours after school each day—always leaving a quick “brb” break for dinner, of course. I used AIM to chat with friends, ask for homework help, plan parties, flirt with the cute crush of the month…it was THE hub for communication, and we couldn’t get enough. We became a generation of IMers, texters, abbreviators, and constant communicators, and we haven’t changed much since.
Since the early 2000s, AIM has more or less disappeared from the social media scene; we all got cellphones. And smartphones. And Facebook chat. Technology grew up, and so did we. The list of replacements goes on, but AIM is actually still alive. Check out their new slogan: “OMG since 1997” …lol.
(You’re probably feeling some serious nostalgia for dial-up Internet right about now…here’s that familiar sound of pure horror, in case it wasn’t brutally burned into your brain).
AIM may be outdated now, but would we have developed such an obsession with constant communication had it not been for such early exposure to this kind of platform? Maybe. Would we have adopted other social media networks and platforms as quickly (and addictively) as we do without AIM as that gateway to lure us in? Probably not.
To try to prove this point, I did the unthinkable. I went to AOL.com to see if I could still login to my old account…and wouldn’t you know…
Welcome. I’ve got mail. (995 new emails, actually).
Interestingly enough, thirteen-year-old me thought it would be smart to keep a folder of saved AIM conversations during my most active years (2004-2008), so while sifting through my pile of precious pre-teen chats, I was lucky enough to find this gem from October 15, 2005:
Pinklassie32: so what are u up to?
Pinklassie32: yea, lisa keeps telling me i should make one
Didge288: you should
Pinklassie32: i didn’t know u had one
Pinklassie32: ok, if i do it ill be one of ur friends
Fast forward one week, and I’ve officially made a MySpace profile, just in time for Halloween. Unfortunately, I couldn’t dig up any screenshots of what I’m sure would’ve been a highly embarrassing page set to the tune of an obscure Nickelback song, but you can imagine what it was like.
My point is not to reveal my gross grammatical errors, but to show a real example of how AIM literally launched us directly into other social media platforms, and we were pretty much hooked going forward.
It’s been almost a decade since most of us started using AIM. A lot has changed in the social media scene, but what’s changed about our social media habits? I know I still use messaging platforms (iMessage, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Facebook chat, Skype…) to keep in touch with friends constantly. I download/sign-up for new social platforms as soon as my friends recommend them (Spotify, Pinterest, Tumblr, Tinder…), and let’s be honest, I still use the occasional abbrev.
How have your social media habits changed in the past ten years? How have they stayed the same?
And most importantly…what was your screen name back in the day?
Comments encouraged :)
Pinklassie32 has signed off at 11:34 pm.