In Our Hour of Need, Memories of AOL Instant Messenger

What do we do when Gchat is down? We freak. And then something from the furthest regions of our brain comes forth, something we remember vaguely, what were those 3 little letters? Remember ... AIM? 

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What do we do when Gchat is down? We freak. Over and over again. We yell at the top of our lungs, which hurts, sort of, because we rarely speak aloud at this time of morning, "What have you done to me, Google!!!!????" We shake our fists at the grey sky, grey to portend the tearing away of something we hold near and dear to our Internet hearts and lives. Our main form of communication has been ripped from us, leaving an unspeakable gap to fill. What to do?

And then something from the furthest regions of our brain comes forth, something we remember vaguely, what were those 3 little letters, those You've Got Mail-esque vibes, the whooshing sound of a message sent, the slightly less whooshing sound of a person leaving a chat? Remember ... AIM? AOL. Instant. Messenger.

Remember! Of course we remember, we remember it like we remember that beloved elderly relative whom we really should call, if not visit in person. It's not been a part of our day-to-day lives for years, yet we still hold a fondness for it. It was so important, way back when; a friend we saw hourly if not nearly every minute. Work was done here. Plans were made, and so were jokes. There were flirtations and then breakups, even, and the ensuing need to "go invisible" and block people. If we can dredge them up, we find we still have our AIM names ... what was ours? Something missing a certain amount of letters? We open our iChat, because that's where we used it, a shift we made at some point in the mid-to-late 2000s, and there we are! We have a conversation, with our current boss!

It feels like the old days, and yet, we have changed, we are in another life now. This name, why was it a good idea to leave out the "e" in Jennifer? When did I call myself "Jennifer"? What is that old photo, something taken in an apartment lived in many years ago, and who are these strange "buddies" listed, odd names like fishfish and weinerdog, zukeface and uncomfortableb? Why are so many of them "offline," now that we really need them for support? In fact, only two are online, neither of whom it appears I used to date, so I reach out to one, whom I think I remember was a photo editor at Radar, a magazine that has since perished. Hark! It is, and she remembers me, too! We enjoy a cheery reunion. For some, it seems, AIM is not just a backup plan, but remains a daily reality.

Elsewhere on the Internet (thank God for Twitter), others have caught on that this is, indeed, a fine plan B, presuming one can remember that long-unused login and password. As a functional communication method, it is, in fact, much easier than the one-sentence email that others have been resorting to, which seems oddly sort of wasteful, or excessive, desperate tweeting. Or worse,  the lack of any communication at all, sitting and spinning alone, friendless, on the Internet. Except then some stranger tries to contact me, asking "Are you online?" Of course I'm online! Who is this person? I have no idea. I sign off.

Taking a positive stance, we think, maybe this temporary lack of Gchat has been refreshing, freeing, eye-opening. Certainly it's less stressful not having that incessant pinging in the background to attend to as if it were a human command. Maybe this has even helped us get a little more work done. Maybe? Still, we admit, we'll feel far more comfortable when the green dots allow for actual relationship interactions as opposed to this false sense of calm. AIM may be good in a pinch, but it's a bit like using a landline in an iPhone world. (Others more multi-talented than we are—including one friend with three Gchat and two AIM accounts, integrated via Adium—weigh in to inform us that they still use AIM all the time.)

But seriously, is Gchat back, yet????? (According to an unscientific test, yes.) Thank God, because we just can't live like this. It's inhumane. Almost as inhumane as Twitter being down.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.