December 15, 2017 will be marked in history as the day AOL Instant Messenger finally died, and with it, a chapter of my online fandom lays to rest.
Long before AIM came on the scene, I was a kid in elementary school who got to try America Online thanks to my family. While the signature “You’ve got mail” chime and the constant refrain of “A/S/L?” weren’t major parts of my childhood, they eventually paved the way for the chat program that would be my go-to form of internet communication for close to two decades.
What began as a way to simply talk to fellow fans in various circles, be it NiGHTS into dreams fanfiction, Pokemon multiplayer strategy, anime, or more. Like so many awkward nerds out there, I had a hard time making friends online, but somehow was able to pour my heart out to those on the other side of my keyboard. I was young, dumb, and full of overwrought emotion, but so were the people on the other side. I remember those early days of my internet life fondly, and lament that the internet as a full-on escape all but died with Web 2.0, let alone the social media landscape we have now.
Out of all my memories using AIM, what probably stands out to me most are the genuinely heartfelt conversations I had with people I truly considered to be my friends, whether we eventually met IRL or not. It felt good to listen to others, and it felt good to have others listen to me, as we shared the things that we found difficult to express to others in person. This might apply more generally to the internet, but at times I felt AIM saved me.
Truth be told, I had still been using it pretty regularly up until the announcement that it was finally going away for good. I know we live in a newfangled world where supercharged messaging programs are a dime-a-dozen, but AOL Instant Messenger will always be my #1.
To Khara, Sonuis, Fish151PKMN, OGT, and all the others out there: thanks for the memories.