Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rest In Peace, AIM

As you may have heard, AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down (finally, for good) this December.  While I won't spend =too= much time reminiscing or even bemoaning that, I do want to express my gratitude to the service as a whole for cultivating relationships in a way that sadly I don't think I will ever experience again.

But before I delve into that, let me just point out that the official reasoning for "Why is AIM shutting down?", as given by this FAQ, is:

We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997. Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.
...which, of course, basically says nothing.  I think "lol" is truly a proper response here.

To me the passing of AIM marks more than just the death of the service itself, but a sad reminder that this old form of communicating and establishing relationships through online chatting seems to be virtually nonexistent anymore.  It didn't matter whether it was AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, or whether you were one of the cool kids like me using a multi-protocol client -- online interaction was =different= back then.  And dare I was better.

Of course, AIM itself is not really such a big deal -- everyone and their parents (sometimes quite literally) have moved onto the new kids on the block, which include facebook messenger, google hangouts, skype, and phone-based messaging, whether it be SMS, Line, WhatsApp, or anything else.  Though I will say that it annoys me how everyone jumped ship from AIM despite it being a perfectly fine service that we had used extensively for years.  In my mind it was due to two reasons, neither of which I like at all...the first reason being that everyone was using gmail (in their browsers, of course), and gchat at the time was a hand-in-hand deal with that.  So everybody always had their browser window open to gmail all the time.  Do people still do this???  I have always used a separate mail client, and a separate IM client...I never saw a reason to conflate these things, and especially not into my web browser of all things.  The second reason was, of course, that it was just not "the cool thing" to do anymore.  So the herd moved on, and left AIM behind, just as it had left Xanga and Livejournal behind, and just as it had left Myspace behind as well.  And I shake my head in dismay as I stick to my ways and probably seem like a dogmatic old fart, what with my 5:4 aspect ratio monitors and pixel art.  (Speaking of which, we got an SNES classic today, hyyyppeeeee!!!)

But no, the death of the service itself isn't so sad.  What is really depressing is that online chat relationships just...aren't what they used to be.  Yes, of course, I still keep at it -- I always try, and I'm not saying that there aren't still great conversations being had and everything.  But no, I mean, back then, in the 2000-2010 era, things were =different=.  There were people for whom I =waited= to come online, people whom I messaged almost daily.  It didn't matter what we talked about -- probably silly stuff like Starcraft or crushes or how stupid the homework assignments were or fangirling over pretty hair or =whatever=.  But I talked with these people...I talked with them so often.  It was something real, something special.  I had so many chats with my best friend in high school (whom I also talked with on the phone!!!).  Even at my first internship, I had late night chats with a co-worker there that became a really good friend -- I'll never forget how nice that was.  All these relationships, built after school, after work, all on the back of these IMs.  The last time I felt really invested in online IMs was a few years ago, and that was part of a long-distance relationship.

But perhaps it's not that the times are a-changing -- perhaps it's not that at all, but rather that my age group has all moved on and left these things behind.  Maybe all the kids now are doing the same things that I did, just without all of the colloquialisms like custom formatting and screen names.  Maybe they are texting each other every day after school (I guess even during school?), forming bonds, and making relationships.  Sure, an old fogey like me would complain and say "gosh darned kids; in my day we used a computer and we actually focused on our conversations...", but honestly...if the kids nowadays are going crazy with their texting or whatever, then you know what, that is great.

But what, then, of my age group?  Is online messaging just not the "cool" thing to do anymore?  Has it just taken other forms like twitch chat and slack channels? (which, remember, are really just the cool hip version of IRC)  Are we just too distracted by our hipster silicon valley workaholic lives to pay attention to an online conversation?  Are we too focused on getting married and having kids to care about making new friends and just talking about random things over IM?  Or are we too jaded by the social relationships we've had and no longer feeling the excitement of conversations?

I don't like growing up.

No comments :

Post a Comment