This bit of news almost slipped through the cracks of my newsfeed, but I thought I owed a few words to the platform, before it is cancelled forever in December. In college, AIM was the first platform I communicated with to my then boyfriend, now husband. It’s how we stayed in touch (for free) when I moved to Australia for a few months after we started dating. It’s how I virtually met a group of amazing fan fiction authors that I’m still in touch with today (although we use Discord). We would spend hours in a private chat rooms, hatching out plots and developing stories — getting me through a particularly terrible employment situation on more than one occasion. It’s the only platform I have to remember a friend who took his life a few years previously, and one of the last ways we ever were in contact. In fact, after I heard of his suicide, I thought ‘What if I had logged in more? What if I could’ve been there for him?’ As an expat, MSN Messenger and AIM were critical ways to keep in touch with friends back home in our early years of living overseas.
I only have a few conversations from AIM saved (mostly about story ideas or funny in the moment chats), but from my first experiences online to roughly 2010 or so, it was the program I always made sure was downloaded onto whatever computer I happened to be on. I imagine I started logging in less once Facebook messenger was introduced to the point that as of yesterday I couldn’t remember the last conversation I had on AIM. And yet, part of me longs for the silly icons, noises, and away messages — a simpler time in my life and the world.
I logged in for the first time in many years yesterday, surprised the same password worked for my handle ‘cbrandtwright’ (one of my later names… I believe the first was CSailorV17 in 1995 or so). There were actually a few people logged in, but I didn’t hit them up for a chat (mostly because they live on the other side of the world, and secondly, because I didn’t believe they were actually logged on to receive my message). Instead, I went through my list of buddies… Names from versions of myself that no longer exist — former bosses and co-workers, early supporters of me as an author, and, the oldest one, from a high school friend with a name involving an inside joke that I helped come up with. Literally, a name from my life in 1995. One that we made up while sitting in her basement, typing away at an old desktop. Courtney at 37 looks back at Courtney at 15 and shakes her head.
As I looked at this list, I thought of the hours of conversations. Sometimes important. Sometimes just checking in. Sharing links or pictures. Learning how to flirt. Logging in to see a name that would make you smile. Checking an away message to see if there was any hidden meaning.
The technology made it into my first four books. Before text messages, before all the ways we can talk to each other now, AIM was the largest platform. Part of me wants to ‘modernize’ my novels, and part of me wants them to live on as a testament to outdated technology.
So, here’s to AIM. While for the most part, I think technology moves forward and modernizes and we all move on without marking time, for this moment, here’s to my formative years and the countless conversations that made me, me.