Today is the day: On December 15th, 2017, AIM has officially signed off for good.
I hope you've saved all your old chat logs, because AIM is no longer. Thankfully, however, it will live on in our memories eternally. I'm mediocre at best when it comes to processing complex emotion, so I'll let the bard take this one:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
October 7th, 2017:
Unfortunately, you read that right. Today AOL announced that the instant messaging service will be shutting down for good, taking all of our random, x-laden, lyric-inspired screen names with it. According to a recently released statement, the company recognizes AIM's legacy but acknowledges that it has essentially become obsolete:
AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.
I realize that this may seem like a non-event to anyone who doesn't remember the world without smartphones. However, for some of us who came of age in the 90s and early 2000s, AIM was our introduction into the social realms of the internet, and will forever hold a special place in our hearts. For me personally, AIM completely defined my teenhood, and though I don't use it anymore, I can't fathom a world in which that concrete tether for my nostalgia no longer exists.
The actual ode part
As trite as I know this probably sounds, AIM used to be the coolest thing in my universe because it allowed me to actually talk.
Like a lot of us — maybe even you — I was once a thirteen-year-old girl with a lovingly executed at-home dye job, fingerless gloves, red eyeshadow up to my eyebrows and really, really poorly chosen glasses. Okay, so maybe that wasn't you exactly. But maybe, like me, you were an awkward young person who was widely regarded as a weirdo and struggled to express yourself verbally for reasons that you couldn't quite understand. For me, it was a cognitive issue compounded with the usual teen stuff, but I didn't know that yet. I was confused by and ashamed of my inability to be a normal human being, and actively hated communicating with my peers because it felt physically painful. People who didn't know me well used to bully me for not talking. Even among my small group of like-minded middle school friends, I tended toward being the quiet one, almost totally certain 90% of the words I made with my mouth were the wrong ones. However, I was an avid note-passer and always felt more comfortable writing things down instead of speaking them aloud. That was the only time I wasn't hindered by my clumsy grasp of social conventions and felt I could be my real, unfiltered self.
Enter the internet. I know it's probably a cliché at this point to talk about how discovering the internet is what it took to empower me to express myself, but discovering the internet is what it took to empower me to express myself. I found MySpace and Xanga, and while those platforms were great, the biggest and most life-changing part of my online life was AOL Instant Messenger. I would log into AIM and park myself in front of the family computer until someone shoved me off, because that was where my friends were. More than that, though, that was where I could connect in what felt to me like a meaningful way — where I could finally exist as a whole person, free of the perplexing and suffocating feelings that usually always accompanied social interaction. The first time I got a phone with a full keyboard (the Samsung BlackJack, to be precise), I begged my mom to add AIM to our plan because none of my friends had texting and I wouldn't be able to talk to them without it. It bridged important gaps for me at a really strange and uncertain time in my life: the bridge between me and others, and the bridge between one incarnation of myself and another, more confident incarnation of myself.
I say all this to say I know I'm not the only one. In the wake of AIM's final log-off, thousands of people are sharing their love for the instant messaging service. It was just one of those things that came at exactly the right time and hit an entire generation of people in exactly the right way, causing culture to not only take shape around it, but use it as a stepping stone on the path to even greater social technology. Yes, we as a society needed the freedom and wildness of a multicolored font, the comfort and personal expression of a lyric-heavy away message, and the identity affirmation of the perfect Gerard Way buddy icon. More importantly, though, we needed a way to bridge the gap, and AIM gave it to us. And I, for one, am going to set my final away message and pour one out with that in mind.
♥♡+:｡.｡Thnks fr th Mmrs, AIM｡.｡:+♡♥
What are your favorite #AIMemories? Share them with us in the comments.