1. Illegally download music.
We still do this now with torrents, but back in the day downloading music was the only way we could listen to it unless we wanted to go to Strawberries, FYE, Newbury Comics, or whatever your local music store was called to purchase a CD… or even worse – a cassette tape! When Napster came out, I held multiple daily searches for every Eminem, Britney Spears, Nsync, and Jay-Z song known to man. Sometimes the songs I downloaded were actually just a chorus repeating over and over, or they’d be ripped from the radio featuring some DJ who needs to give a shout out out to literally everyone he’s ever met. When Napster got shut down, I was already addicted to downloading music, so I turned to KaZaa and eventually Limewire, which I used until I realized that there were some serious penalties to illegally downloading music. This wasn’t a big deal because by that time, we had YouTube. (Along with iTunes, and Pandora, and Spotify. Illegally downloading music isn’t exactly necessary anymore. Times sure have changed).
2. Warned People.
At some point, AOL created a button where you could warn someone who was IMing you inappropriate/ unwanted things. When warned, said person would enter a probation-type period where they would eventually get kicked offline for a good five minutes if they continued the ‘bad behavior.’ This was a somewhat good idea because we could warn those who bullied us online… But let’s be serious — No one took the warning button seriously. If someone was bullying us, we would be far too afraid to bring harm to their beloved AIM account (we just printed the conversation and sent it around the lunch table, duh). Instead, we screwed with our friends and people we didn’t like… and they messed with us too. Our warning level percentage would constantly grow even if we weren’t doing anything to deserve it. And once we were at or close to 100%, we said hello to an AIM hiatus because we weren’t going to be allowed back on any time soon.
3. Took great interest in who was viewing our profiles.
This was a severe and not okay invasion of privacy. We had links in our profile for people to click — ‘See who’s viewed my profile!‘ Little did everyone know, when you clicked this, YOU would be put on the list. This ridiculous list of screen names also included how many TIMES the person viewed your profile. I mean, what was wrong with us? Why did we do this to ourselves and others? Why did we actually CLICK these links? Of course, my smart self figured out how to beat the system: Copy and paste the link without actually clicking it and replace your screen name in the link with a fake one. I was ahead of our time. Sorry I’m not sorry.
4. Created and Took ‘How Well Do You Know Me’ Profile Quizzes.
We used to not only love making these tests, but taking them. ‘What is my favorite color?’ ‘How many siblings do I have?’ ‘What is my favorite band?’ Your friendship with people was tested by this quiz and then based on the percentage they scored. You only got a 70%? Talk about a fair-weather friend. How did you not know I’ve seen Taking Back Sunday in concert three times?
5. Created multiple screen names.
Since AIM was our life, we constantly created new screen names — some of us more than others. Couldn’t we have just picked a normal screen name so we didn’t feel the need to change it every five seconds, rather than screen names like glitrgrl88, dancer4lyfe45, messedcheerleadr, whatsammatta (These are screen names I actually had — no wonder I would always get sick of my screen names). And on top of keeping up with people’s SNs constantly changing, we used multiple screen names at the same time. Remember the away messages that read ‘brb going on other sn‘? Yeah.
6. Looked up song lyrics (and their meanings).
Knowing lyrics to songs was imperative back in the day because we had to have the most perfect lyrics in our away message and profile at all times. azlyrics.com. songmeanings.net. It was all the same and we lived for it. We couldn’t just put lyrics to a song we liked in our profile. It had to be a song we liked AND a song that related to our drama-filled lives. And if it didn’t exactly relate, we would scan songmeanings.net and the comment section to see if somehow, someway we could relate one single sentence from the song to our life.
7. Decorate our profiles.
As much as our parents may have disapproved of the immense amount of time we spent on the computer during our childhood, we actually learned a lot from it. Like, seriously. We learned to type insanely fast, which put us ahead of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, technologically speaking. We learned a little bit of HTML from decorating our AIM profiles, subprofiles, and eventually our MySpace pages. And then there were free websites like Expage, which taught us a little about web design. At the mere age of 12 I was already building skills for my resume. Who knew?
8. Talked to people who were not real/ people we didn’t know.
AIM was not around just to talk to friends. We had thousands of people on our buddy list and we sure as hell didn’t have thousands of friends. We chatted with people we didn’t know, but knew through friends (kind of). We went into chat rooms full of anonymous strangers so we could laugh at what was going on and answer the famous a/s/l question with fake responses (this normally occurred at sleepovers). We talked to SmarterChild, a ‘robot’ screen name we could ask anything and he would answer (kind of like an old school Siri). We IMed anything and anyone… and this worried our parents. It worked for Lifetime though, as they created many movies about dumb pre-teen girls who had relationships with strangers online that ended in death or unexpected crime scenes. Oh, AIM.
9. Make dollz.
And yes, that is dollz with a z. Tell me this wasn’t just me, but I used to obsess over creating dollz online. I would go through all the girls, picking the best outfits for them to wear and then I’d put them on my Expage website for everyone to see. I would also create collages of the dollz together in Paint and pretend they were me and my friends. Maybe it was the beginning of an obsession with graphic design, or maybe it was the beginning of an obsession with fashion. Or maybe it was just me being really effing weird. Probably a combination of the three.
10. Surf Ty.com.
Beanie babies rose to fame around the same time the internet did, so you can only imagine how COOL and IMPORTANT it was to have a website all about our beloved beanie baby creatures. Ty.com was like our Facebook in the 90s, as we took the value lives of our precious stuffed animals very seriously. The website had information about each animal from their birthday to their poem to their favorite hobby.