the buddy list

We all remember the noise; the one that started it all, really. It’s early evening in your home, the volume is cranked on your computer, and your parents have agreed to give you the next hour to use their device to chat on AIM Instant Messenger. You are officially free.

That noise is the sound of a creaky door opening its way into your psyche as you ponder the opening lines to type to your online crush. You’ve both talked about this moment at school, so it’s no surprise that the door creaks a mere second or two after you sign on. The moment is now — what are you going to say?

Nostalgia, anyone?

I’m right there with ya. Before the explosion of social media, online chats and forums ruled the internet world. Phrases like POS (Parent Over Shoulder), BBL (Be Back Later), SmarterChild (Siri’s Parent), and Away Messages (Twitter?), ran the lives of our youth and our parents didn’t have a frickin’ clue what was really going on.

Evolving from the days of hand-written notes, letters, telephone house calls and a rendezvous with that special someone, Instant Messenger single-handedly changed the game. While using a different medium and tapping into a section of the brain that had not quite been reached yet, the online and social world was shifting — and fast. No longer were kids only communicating with friends and crushes at school, but they were connecting after hours in a sector of the online world that was quickly taking over.

With online forums and discussion boards increasing their grip and the ‘shared’ culture that arrived once Napster completely shocked the music world (watch Downloaded if you haven’t yet),


Napster: The music. The battle. The revolution. Downloaded - a film by Alex


AIM arrived at just the right time.

If you think long and hard, I’m sure many of you will remember what it was like creating that first Screen Name, better known as your SN. That acronym sounds weird to say aloud now but I’m pretty sure that’s what we were calling it back in the day, right?

I’m starting to see what my parents meant when they told me that certain memories would start to fade. Yikes.

During the time of dial-up and the fight for the family computer or laptop, AIM held the power in so many homes across the country.

Haven’t finished your homework? No AIM until it’s completed.

Didn’t take out the trash last night? No AIM tonight!

On and on this went in my house, until my brother and I would eventually come to fists and all hell would break loose. Looking back, life on AIM is difficult to put into words. Today, texting and messaging are the norm, while AIM has grown obsolete. Growing up, it was the quintessential means of communication after school and on the weekends. If you weren’t at the swim club or outside playing basketball with your friends, I’m sure you can remember where you were on those hot summer days sitting in the AC and messaging all of your best friends until your mom kicked you off again.

Our generation was literally on the cusp of the technological boom before the game completely changed. While Silicon Valley professionals were making their billions and Mark Cuban was becoming one of the luckiest billionaires of all-time (his own words! He’s also f’ing brilliant), the kids were driving so much of this technological boom forward.

I think about someone like Mark Zuckerberg with his creation of Facebook and I ask myself if it’s even possible he starts the company without some type of influence from AIM and the other platforms gaining popularity during this time period. It’s simply amazing, and we were there for it all; on the front lines, breaking up with girlfriends, setting passive-aggressive away messages, and ensuring that technology defined our generation for centuries to come.


Paddiecake09 and Pkbball10 sure as hell do…