Facebook's Sidebar Status Is Essentially The AIM Away Message Reborn, So Rejoice, #TBT Fans!
Long, long ago, when the Internet was new and AOL Instant Messenger had not yet faded into legend, there was a thing known to those first, brave pioneers of the web as "the away message." But now, Facebook might be reviving the away message. Because AOL Instant Messenger will never really die, not so long as there are those of us who remember it.
For those who never got to experience the glory that was AOL Instant Messenger, away messages were brief messages designed to let your friends know what you were up to while you weren't incessantly chatting them. They now mostly only see the light of day on the Twitter account @YourAwayMessage, which tweets examples from a bygone era. I'll admit that this kind of seems weird given that modern social media, like Twitter, is what ultimately replaced AOL Instant Messenger in the first place... but what can I say? Those of who grew up with the rapid evolution of the Internet tend to be nostalgic.
Which is why it's super exciting that Facebook is now introducing a variation on the classic away message. Facebook is currently testing a feature called the "sidebar status" on its mobile app. Currently, when you swipe right on the Facebook icon, you can see a list of people you frequently message. But with the new feature, your friends will be able to include a short message for you to see if they can't chat, letting you know what they're up to. The messages only show up in the sidebar, not on your newsfeed, and they disappear either after 12 hours or after you change them — whichever comes first.
Right now, the feature is testing in Australia and Taiwan, but once it (hopefully) comes to the US, we'll be able to see if people nowadays leave messages as silly as they did back in the good old AOL days.
Ah, the late '90s and early 2000s. Simpler times. In fact, it's kind of crazy that even though it wasn't that long ago, if you'd tried to explain to any of the people posting those statuses back then what a Facebook app even was they would probably just be so confused.
Facebook envisions the sidebar status as a way for close friends to keep better track of each other. Because now that Facebook has become so popular with everyone from brands to grandmothers, it's harder to use for its original purpose — letting young people know what they're friends are up to at all times. But because the sidebar sorts friends based on how often you interact with them, it can be a quick way to check in on your friends. Not to mention an even better way to Facebook stalk your friends and acquaintances if you're willing to scroll.
In short, long live the away message!