In the wise words of a typical Facebook status of a 20-year old girl with pink low-lites and no ambitions after a blackout whirlwind of a spring break in Cancun: “OMG. Take me back now!”
But take me back to the world of AOL Screen Names and Instant Messaging. I miss them beyond comprehension. What is this new world where privacy is out the window and I must use my real name on all social media enterprises? LAME. Granted, there is an option to use made-up names on Twitter and Instagram, and even Gmail. But at 24, that would be frowned upon. Could I really send an inquiry into a job posting from “XOXOBlueEyedBabezXOXO@gmail.com”? Unless that job posting was for ‘experienced dancer’ on Craigslist, then probably the answer is no.
But here are some thoughts and memories I have about the AOL Screen Name Era of the late 90s and early 2000s, and why it was the most absurd and simultaneously awesome experience that only our generation will have.
The predictability of screen name choices for girls. Everything involved something about their physical beauty and a series of strange upper and lower cases and maybe some virtual kisses and hugs. Some examples might have been: HottieWitABody123 (usually one of the least attractive girls in middle school); bLonDbombSHELL6969 (inevitably a play on words for a blond girl named Michelle who was 11 and dyed her hair and had no idea what 69-ing really was); and who could forget QTsweetieGUrLxoxo (usually reserved for the meanest, most ruthless Regina George in school).
The predictability of screen name choices for boys. Ugh, welcome to BroFest2002. We get it. You play sports and you like rap, little pre-teen suburban white boy. Some included: DaRealSlimShady6969 (for someone who lived in a gated community and would not go through puberty for years to come); FOOTBALLMANIAC777 (because, hey man, they were the Pop Warner football prodigy and seven was their lucky number. Duh.); and my personal favorite WhasupDawg1088 (reserved for the short, fat, eventually-gay, braced-faced Drake, trying DESPERATELY to fit in at the most catty of Catholic middle schools). Fail.
The cyber wars. When I say war, I 100% mean it. We fought dirty, y’all. So much he said she said on the internetz. I printed out many-an-instant-message conversation and brought them to school as proof that Sally did not really like Jake, she instead preferred to be kissing Ben behind the lockers in the gym. “Sally is a Hester Prynne who must be punished and outed for her true floozy colors!” I’m sure I said in some fashion. This makes me look mean, but everyone did it, to save themselves in the hierarchy of the cutthroat middle school cyber world. People logged onto my screen name and pretended to be me. People made fake, super-anonymous screen names to torture other people (Example: “Everyone hates you and thinks you’re a fat slut, Heather!” sent from the screename ‘EveryoneHatesHeatherXOXO’). And my personal favorite was getting on one friend’s screen name and talking to another friend about yourself trying to ignite a fire-fight. “Drake is so lame, isn’t he?” I would write to Zach on George’s screen name. True friendship test, you bamboozled mutha fuckaaaa!
A “fun” Saturday night. If I spent 5 hours on AOL gossiping with my friends about things that were literally made up, illegally downloading music on Napster, and ordering a Pizza Hut pizza to finish off by myself, I considered it a successful, super-awesome night. Still might consider this awesome now that I think about it. Yikes.
Whirlwind romances. My first four “girlfriends”, if you could call them that, were all people I knew in real life at school, but did 100% of my communication with via the internetz. My first of the “girlfriends” was in 5th grade. I asked her out on instant message on a Friday afternoon. Things quickly got rocky when she gossiped with my friend on Saturday that she sort of liked someone else. And in a moment of self-preservation, I broke up with her via instant message on Sunday, crumbling from the blows that heartache had left me. All other “relationships” followed suit. Even writing this down makes me want to punch 12 year old brace-faced me in the face.
The transition away from instant message. I got unlimited text messaging. I got my learner’s permit to drive. I made real-life friends after a transition out of the hell that is known as puberty. No longer was the shield of the desk-top Windows 1998 computer necessary. End of an era, but not to be forgotten. People say their parents and neighborhoods and shit shape them into who they are. I believe surviving the years of cyber-backstabbing before it became illegal for this new (read: SOFT) generation was really what did the trick for me. I mean, c’mon. Look how well I turned out! (I’m writing this at 1pm in my underwear).