The Instant Message

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By Liz -

Seeing the surge of people in cities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy searching for available electrical outlets to charge their collection of devices is definitely a sign of how the way we communicate has changed. I remember when a blackout during a storm meant having a sleepover with a friend and telling each other scary stories with a flashlight. And you just had to make do with what you had in the house. You could only find out about the state of the storm after it passed. Now, an impending storm means juicing your appliances so that when the power goes out you can watch your favorite show on Netflix, order food online via Seamless, and get up-to-the-minute information and images from Twitter – and of course, text your friends and family.

Can you remember a time when speaking to your friends was exclusively in person or from your home landline phone? Or the last time you opened up a book to find out what a word or term meant? Most kids these days never had to deal with these inconveniences and have upgraded to Wi-Fi, text messaging, and FaceBook.

Since I can remember the sound of dial-up and my first experiences on AIM (AOL instant messenger for those too young to know!), the recent OJBG episode (5.6 Trial Expired) where Gwen dumps Sarah over instant messenger struck a chord.

The impersonality of the instant message is probably its best and worst feature. You’re able to talk to someone while being far enough removed from them that you can be ambiguous and blunt without having so much of the guilt staring back at you. Breaking up with someone online or through a text message, I think, is still viewed as a cowardly move. Yet, I can understand why Gwen chose to break-up with Sarah through this new instant messenger tool. IM was an easy option for Gwen to turn to so she didn’t have to personally witness the heartbreak of her disappointed paramour. After dodging Sarah’s phone calls for weeks and before coming home, IM was the perfect method for Gwen to embody a bolder persona and deliver a clean, cold blow.

 While Sarah’s first time with instant messaging was horrible, for me it was a new exciting way to talk to my friends. Creating an AIM username was a serious task; it was like creating an identity for myself. Now we have handfuls of usernames for different sites and applications, but back then, having the ability to create that one online persona was special. I can’t remember what I chose–probably something cliché and with “baby” or “angel” in it somewhere–but it was a new me. Or, more likely, it was the “me” I wanted to be. Can you remember your first IM username? Leave a comment below and tell us what it is!

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