I Miss AOL Instant Messenger

By today’s standards, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is a friggin’ fossil. It does nothing other than let people send text messages to one another, a job Gchat, Facebook and your cell phone have more than taken over by this point. But in its day, there was one thing AIM had going for it that none of these pretenders to the throne can claim: It was the perfect tool for one-sided love (read: stalking).

1999 was my freshman year of college. MySpace and Facebook were a few years away, and even cell phones were a province of the privileged. Everyone, however, was on AIM, 24/7, 365. And long before you could show your friends your status, you could show your buddy list your away message, a veritable public mood ring to a sexually frustrated college youth. Going out for the night? A lighthearted Dazed and Confused quote might be in order. Still in a funk over a breakup with a girl you dated for two weeks but were convinced was the one? Show her what she’s missing out on by putting up some lyrics from The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over.” She’ll immediately recognize how sensitive and distraught you are, pull the star linebacker’s cock right out of her mouth and come a-runnin’.

The away message paled in comparison to my favorite aspect of AIM, though: Idle time. For those of you who never used the program, AIM would display how long you hadn’t touched your keyboard or moved your mouse to the world, meaning that if you put up an away message along the lines of “I hope tonight’s date goes well 😉 LOL!!,” and you then showed an idle time of 16 hours, well, we all knew that your date went pretty well, hussy. More than one night of that freshman year was spent playing a drinking game at my desk called “Stare at Your Monitor and Take a Shot for Every Hour She’s Idle on a Friday Night.” I always won.

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  1. January 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Great stuff but you need to expand on why it was such a great stalking tool. You could easily check if an “offline” buddy had you blocked by using another SN of your own and then just logging on to that, adding said person to your Buddy List and then if he/she pops online, huzzah, you’ve been blocked on your main account!

    Also if you managed to get someone else’s SN, you could simply randomly say hello, ala BloodNinja (who is my hero):

  2. Brian
    January 21, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Could you imagine how big AOL would have become had they found a way to really monetize IM? If they charged even a nominal $5 monthly access fee, maybe they wouldn’t be irrelevant and in the crapper now.

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  5. MB
    March 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm
    don’t lose faith….

    Yeah, AIM was so good for stalking. The excitement of hearing an instant message arrive was something else.

  6. amoretto
    October 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I miss aim too, but i miss aol more. chat room listings, member directory, and of cause all the proggies I used to cause havoc with. I reminisce on these days

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