With the introduction of chat services from Google and Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger receives less love

“What’s your SN?”

If someone were to ask me this question today, the first thing I would think is “Don’t say anything rude just because someone forgot to tack on another ‘S’ for Social Security Number”, and second, “Why do you want to break into my bank account?”

That is how far removed my mind has become from AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). I used to use AIM religiously throughout middle school, then sporadically in high school, and not once in college — until yesterday. Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to log on for the first time in over two years. It took me a minute to remember my screen name and at least five to remember my password, but once the little gold running man popped up on the screen I knew I was in. It was weird to be back.

The first thing I saw was, out of 220 buddies, only six were online. Three of them were

“away” (also, just using the word “buddy” instead of “friend” threw me for a second — an obvious sign of Facebook working overtime on my unconscious). Next, I noticed that out of 220 buddies, I couldn’t match name to face for at least half (who are you manners9matter?). And lastly, out of 220 buddies, nobody had a Buddy Info Profile anymore — lame song lyrics and long lists of inside jokes are officially no more.

After seeing this, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for those days after school where I would rush home just to update my “away message” from “at school :(” to the new lyrics from the latest punk imitation band of Simple Plan. The only familiar constant that remained was that eerie door creaking noise when someone signed on, and that slamming of said door when someone logged off. Remember all that? I used to live for it.

But with the arrival of Facebook chat, Gchat, Skype and texting, old school AIM has virtually dropped off the college communication map for many, rendering it completely irrelevant and, as we know, utterly replaceable. It seems like we are finding little to no reason to stay connected through IM because first and foremost it lacks immediacy. If you can reach someone within seconds via text why wait around to talk through AOL? Better yet, with Skype you can use video call and actually have a conversation with your friends face to face. Not to mention, we are busier people with, quite frankly, better things to do. Leaving a wall post gets the job done quickly, and saves tons of time for studying for midterms, going out, or whatever better thing you got going on.

This general transition from IM to Facebook, buddy to friend, was so fast I can’t even pinpoint AOL’s exact departure date from our generation’s use. It was as if one day I was IMing with kids named scrstar09 and fblfan54 and the next, I was liking their status instead. Facebook, which originally was engineered specifically toward college students, has now completely depleted AIM of its target audience: middle-school and high school students.

Case in point, when I called my 13-year-old brother to ask what his SN was, he told me he didn’t have time for my “dumb” questions and that he had to go back to Call of Duty. Thanks for the confirmation, John.

If nothing else, AIM should be remembered for its renovation of language, or perhaps more appropriately, its destruction of it. With the mastery of abbreviation such as TTYL, LOL and BTW, and as of lately NBD and LMFAO, we have to ask ourselves where would we be without AIM. Not only has it programmed the way we talk to each other through technology, but more impressively it has changed the way we speak to each other face to face in our everyday speech. Which OMG, is kind of unbelievable when you think about it.

Emily is a freshman in LAS.