When you lose something you love, it's normal to feel grief, but my reaction to AOL Instant Messenger's shutdown is a bit much. I've known about the plan to discontinue AIM for a couple of months, but now that Dec. 15 is actually here, I'm shook. Thankfully, I'm not alone. AOL Instant Messenger's last day is finally here, and we're all mourning its loss. As I once said in an AIM away message, "Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened." But why does it have to disappear, anyway? According to AOL, "Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products." I get it — AIM probably wasn't pulling in a ton of users in 2017 — but it still means so much to so many of us.
AIM gave us the ability to subtweet before Twitter was but a glimmer in Jack Dorsey's eye. I'd change my AIM status depending on who had wronged me that day and write something along the lines of, "~It iS sOoO hArD tO fInD rEaL fRieNdS~" or "~BOYS SUCK!!!!" By the way, my first username was "jellybellyluva" because I really loved Jelly Belly jelly beans. My next username was "jesusfreak54848" because I really loved Jesus. Life was so much simpler then. My first real conversation with my husband happened on AIM nearly eight years ago. Later, I told them that I liked him via a long AIM message (and immediately signed off so I wouldn't have to see his response — cue the iconic door-close noise). I once blocked him on AIM because another girl asked for his number! AIM basically sums up my entire adolescence, which is why saying goodbye is so hard.
Of course, I've moved on to other platforms, so AIM disappearing doesn't actually affect my day-to-day life at all. AOL announced you could export your chat logs prior to the shutdown, but who actually wants to remember all the cringeworthy things they said during their most awkward years? If anything, I'd rather forget most of the things that happened in middle and high school. AIM did have some life-changing implications, though. While I used it to chat with friends from school, some people saw it was a way to explore other worlds. Twitter user @mikeyil says, "Today, AOL Instant Messenger went dark. To say that AOL/AIM changed the course of my entire life is an understatement. It gave me—an awkward teen with overprotective parents—a line to the outside world. For a time it was everything and now it's gone. Crazy."
And who can forget signing in as invisible so no one would know you were online but you could still creep on all of your friends? Or chatting with bots like SmarterChild, who I sometimes talked to more than my own family? Our ability to communicate and keep up with the people around us has developed in a way none of us ever could've imagined back when AIM was at its height in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We have more tools at our fingertips than ever before, but we aren't exactly ready to bid AIM farewell. Maybe it reminds us that online communication used to be much simpler, or maybe it's just a nostalgic nod to childhood.
I haven't opened AIM in years, but I still felt some type of way when I pulled up the website today and got an error message. The Internet will move on because it always does, and eventually we'll probably forget AIM ever existed. But today, it's hard to not think about AIM and the friendships it helped create. TTYL, AIM. It's been real.