Two days ago, AOL announced that it will be discontinuing the use of their chat client, AIM, on December 15th, 2017. The service has been active since 1997, and allowed users to communicate across the internet allowing them to not only talk, but send pictures, videos, emoticons, and files to each other. While I didn’t use it in 1997, I began to use it in what was about fifth grade until eleventh grade, and at my peak of its usage, I was on almost every free moment for three years straight. In fact, in one of my science classes the year I began excessively using it I measured how much time I used on the computer per week, and learned I spent 36 hours a week on the computer, along with AIM. It became my life.
I remember the importance of having the right set of emoticons to express yourself with; you could choose from lists of different animals or styles. I chose a panda, so whenever I’d post a 🙂 or 😀 an encouraging albeit slightly haunting panda would appear. The worst were when you accidentally had an odd semicolon or question mark and the panda would accidentally form. In addition, every time I received a message, a butchered audio clip of the beginning piano part of What I’ve Done by LINKIN PARK played. I grew attached to these choices, and they grew on me as the chat client progressed.
(These were low-key terrifying in small form. The one with a grin we called Face because we referred to it as “what’s-it’s-face” whenever it accidentally appeared in chat format. Sometimes we would branch off and roleplay with it to the point I made it into a weird character that could never die. I don’t know why.)
My one friend encouraged me to get it because she didn’t want to get charged on her phone for all the text messages we’d use. My friendship with her ended within that year, and I went dormant for awhile. That is, until I met a friend at the beach the summer of sixth grade going into seventh grade. We got along great and exchanged usernames to speak with each other again. She introduced me to the greatness that roleplaying was, and it was like a drug. For the next year we role-played for hours on end, often staying up until the sun came up to sleep the day away. We were nerds, so we didn’t really go outside much anyways. Despite how close we are, we eventually drifted apart.
Then came the next generation of its use with more friends. We had a role-play group where we would go back and forth for hours, sometimes holding three at once. One on the group chat, and then two others with each other separately. We became skilled at typing quickly and creating detailed, spontaneous characters and plot creation. It was fast paced, creative multi-tasking at its finest. I managed to get my best friend onto the app, and we finally had a way to talk instantaneously. Her other friend joined as well, and the three of us had our own little group. I wound up talking to her friend more than her at one point, and him and I became great friends. We all gathered up one day and had an adventure at the movie theater. Despite my closeness with all of these people, we all drifted apart as time went on. (Except with my best friend; we’re still the same.)
By the end of my usage, I had accumulated a collection of groups (usually made of the same 5 friends but with different combinations) with classic names that only thirteen year-olds could’ve come up with. Kukuku, NellandmecauseEmishere, gnarshlop, hellohellobabyyouIMDme, BREWHAHA, BAHUMBUG, BTT, BCC, and last but not least, Anna’s mobile! GASP. Our usernames were even more cringe-inducing, although I will not share those for the sake of my old friends. I may not speak to any of them anymore, but I respect their privacy to their awful usernames just as I hide my own.
AIM allowed me to spend a solid chunk of my life connecting with my friends and getting to know some new ones. Without it, I would’ve never had such great times and I would be stunted as not only a writer, but as a person too. I’ve learned a lot of personal lessons about the aspect of written communication, and while some are painful, they are all valuable to me. I grew up with AIM. It was there for me to use in Elementary, Middle, and High School, which is longer than all but one of those friendships. And so, I say with a nostalgically heavy heart, goodbye, AIM. Thanks for the memories.
(It felt almost damning to not make another reference to my childhood, haha.)