If you were a normal kid in grade school, you had an AOL Instant Messenger account. Now, if you want to have some semblance of sanity at work, you use Gchat on a regular basis. Gchat takes me back, man. I blew up AIM like gangbusters. I had so many buddies that I had to separate them into different groups just to keep track of all of them. One group for guys and one group for girls, naturally. But then I broke them down into what school they went to, where they lived, if they went to CYO dances. I got really into it.
My away messages were pretty on point too. Maybe that’s why my Twitter game is top notch? I’d leave to do some homework and leave something up like, “brb doin’ some hw lol.” If hashtags had been around back then, I’m certain I’d have been all over that too.
Soon, AIM was dead in my circle of friends and I had moved on to more modern pursuits of interaction. Xanga, MySpace, and Facebook all sprouted up around my senior year of high school, and I no longer felt the need to continue using AIM. The rise in popularity in text messaging in the early 2000s also probably contributed to the demise of AIM.
But now as I sit at my desk on most days, I’ll pull up good old Gchat and reminisce about AIM and how familiar the two are. I usually have multiple chat windows up throughout the day, and still find myself saying “brb” and “lol” out of habit. Also, who invented abbreviations? How much time and energy was spent trying to explain things like “ttyl” or “brb” or “l8r” or “rofl” or “lmao” to people? I wasn’t much for the abbreviations. I was a straight shooter on AIM.
Looking back, you can almost make the argument that AIM and AOL were the original social medias. Who would’ve thought that going into the “Lesbian Encounters 401” chat room was your first experience with digital, human-to-human interaction that was going to be such a big part of your life? That some 40-year-old dude from Ohio pretending to be a buxom, latina lesbian from Miami was one of your first of many partners in digital communication?
The AIM away message could very well have been the genesis of most social media as well. Away messages were like the original tweets. The shorter, more to the point and funnier they were, the better they were. It’s always interesting to look back on where we came from and how we got here and the correlations between AIM and Gchat, Facebook Messenger and other cool shit that hasn’t been invented yet, are vast. We are the digital generation and AOL Instant Messenger was our first dip into the world of online communication that we value so greatly for wasting time to this day.
A tip of the cap is in order to you, AIM. Where would we be without you? We wouldn’t know how to speak online, text one another or even send short emails. You taught us the ways of how to communicate with one another via the magic of the information superhighway.