The Art Of Creating An AIM Persona, Circa 2003
I. Choosing a screen name
Choosing a screen name is essentially deciding who you want to be for the next decade, six months, or twenty minutes (just long enough to anonymously fuck with your ex’s ex – just this once). There is nothing more important than your transient identity.
So, who ARE you? Your personality lies within the core of your screen name. A basketball player? BBaLLeR. A dancer? DaNCe. A club kid? XtaScY. Why are we typing LiKe tHiS? Well, random capitalization is how you show the world that you’re l33t. It’s not acceptable anywhere but the Internet – only a n00b would require this explanation… you’re not a n00b, are you? Good.
If you’re not a fan of the uppercase, lowercase method, you’re probably over the age of 13 and should choose two “deep” words that, when combined, make absolutely no sense but impart a sense of intellectuality. For example, ‘existentialmodernism’ or ‘espressodefacto.’ If you choose this model, don’t even think of capitalizing. And really, never consider an ALL CAPS screen name – ALL CAPS screams, “My dad created this screen name for me.” You don’t want that.
Someone always beats you to registering the handle you want; such is the nature of the Internet. We’ll have to continue adding characters until we’ve cultivated a one-of-a-kind screen name. Add a lowercase ‘x’. Okay. We’re almost done. What year were you born in? Add your ‘YY’ to the end. Example: DaNCex85. Stunning! Time to build your Buddy List.
II. Buddy List building
Collect screen names from everyone you meet. Ask people for their ‘SN’ on the school bus, in the middle of class, and at summer camp. If you don’t have anything to write on, ink their SN on a part of your body that isn’t prone to sweat, like your calf. Utilize your friends who have been on AIM longer than you – they have a treasure trove of SNs at their beck and call. You need to collect as many SNs as possible – God forbid you wake up in the middle of the night and have no one to IM with. Don’t go too crazy, though – you can only have 200 buddies and you don’t want to have to delete your seven alter egos from your Buddy List.
Once you’ve acquired enough screen names, it’s time to create a hierarchy. Your crush gets their own category on your Buddy List, titled simply, “<3” or the more enthusiastic “<33333.” Go ahead and set up an alarm for whenever they sign on – both pop up and audio (the .wav of a cow mooing seems to be effective). Next, you’ll need to decide what to call your two primary categories. Whatever you call them, their meaning is more or less universal – one means “Friends” and one means “Enemies.” Suggested categories include “FrEaKz” and “GeEkZ” or “HoTtiEs” and “NoTtiEs.” Alternately, you can divide the two groups into females and males; in which case you may want to use “HoEs” and “BrOs” or “SiStAs” and “BRoThaS” – it’s really up to you.
A suggested category would be “I’m a stalker,” where you quarantine all of the people you don’t actually know. Why would you keep people who aren’t your buddies on a Buddy List? To stalk their away messages, of course! This is where your crush’s girlfriend lives. This is where the hot person you’re jealous of lives. Keeping these people in a “safe place” isn’t necessary, but it is strategic. Ever hover over someone’s screen name for a while and forget to IM them? Next thing you know, they’ve signed off and you’ve accidentally IM’ed your new boyfriend’s ex. Or, one of your sane friends comes over afterschool and notices that you’ve been keeping tabs on forbidden fruit via your Buddy List after you promised you’d quit being a crazy person. Wouldn’t it be easier to collapse that section and keep your questionable behavior under wraps?
Lastly, you’ll need a special section for confirmed and suspected famous people. Obtained the screen name of Lance Bass (Impoofu)? In the rare occasion that he signs on, you won’t want his screen name sandwiched in between your Aunt Linda and Mike from gym class. When a celebrity signs on, every second counts. You can also place “suspected” famous people here, who you found by searching through AOL profiles. The profile has enough details to make it viable, but doesn’t claim to be the celebrity outright – designed to give the reader the impression that they are “on to something.” Save these screen names – it doesn’t hurt.
III. Creating a ‘persona’
Your font is the first thing people see when you IM them. It should be unique and scream, “DaNCex85!” Choose Arial, pt size 8. This says, “Struggle to read me, bitch,” and also, “I’m not your average Comic Sans motherfucker.” Choose red or purple as your font color – whatever you do, do not make your font blue. The guys will have a blue font because it’s “a man’s color,” and girls will have a blue font because they’re “one of the guys.” Abstain from blue at all costs. Do not bold your font or have a background color unless you want to clash with everyone. Don’t be an eyesore – let people accurately represent themselves as xTaScYx87 without your gaudy background color obstructing their persona.
Now, let’s talk about your avatar. Your avatar shouldn’t be you – rather, it should be a reflection of you. Use a picture of a baby smoking a cigarette or a cat making an interesting face. You can also use an avatar with no inherent meaning, like a pineapple. Do not use that AIM ClipArt of a soccer ball if you ever want to make it to third base with your crush. Other unacceptable avatars: Michael Jordan, golf clubs, cartoons.
You’ll also need your own IM chime. That way, if someone is in bed or in the bathroom, they’ll hear your distinct IM chime and know that you’re beckoning them. Choose a clip from Madonna’s “Get into the Groove” or a whistle. Do not choose the .wav of a woman screaming; no one will ever want to IM with you again.
IV. Crafting a profile
Your profile is where people go when they want to delve deeper. Who is this DaNcEx85? What makes her tick? This is where you splay your favorite Fleetwood Mac lyric and where you put your anniversary date (following this format: “dd.mm.yy <3 always be my baby”). This is where you show your softer side.
But first! You need to set bait for unsuspecting profile visitors. Create a photo account, preferably on Webshots. Upload a collection of your scanned photos. Then mask the link using IMChaos. Drop the link in your profile and label it something innocent, like “Pictures! :D” Whenever someone clicks that link, you’ll know about it. You might’ve made it into a few quarantined Buddy List categories yourself, you know? Now you’ll know who’s stalking you, and you can use it to exploit and embarrass people later on.
But back to your “soft side.” Splay a series of inspirational quotes by Marilyn Monroe or Derek Jeter into your profile. Write prose to no one in particular. Press “Return” until your cursor won’t go further down and when you’ve reached the end of your profile, borrow a quote that makes you sound like you’re a bit unstable, but dealing. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Send a 143 to your girls.
And there you have it! You’re ready to send your first IM.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.