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.