I don’t really know what I was thinking when I signed up for MSN Messenger as a thirteen year old, ten years ago.
My best friend and I, dangerously unsupervised, decided to make email addresses that showed our peers how cool and original we were. Alas, ‘iluvchingbling69′ and ‘iluvblingching69′ were born. Due to the obvious confusion caused by our gangster wannabe names, only I could carry on the legacy, and thus the latter email address has remained solid in its love for gold money and sixty-nine, for a decade.
2003 was a good year – a year you could introduce to your mother. I remember sitting at my dad’s desk in our downstairs office, typing away furiously with only two fingers, a habit I still have at age twenty-two. No one actually knows how I manage to function as a writer/citizen of the computer world. I had Windows 95 installed on my computer and would accompany my incessant conversations with questionable music such as Usher’s masterpiece ’8701′, Eminem’s ‘The Eminem Show’ and various other rubbish.
MSN, as it was affectionately truncated, was a place where the teenagers of the 00s could go and feel special amongst the hundreds of other people who had the same lyrics as their display name. My MSN names almost always had “(*)eMMa(*)” at the beginning, followed by what can only be described as true and utter shit. I would trawl the Internet looking through forums for new song lyrics that conveyed the deep heartbreak I’d experienced after my weekly boyfriends dumped me. I would usually transcribe the lyrics into the extremely readable, and not at all hard to decipher, upper case/lower case combo. It was aWeSuM.
These years on MSN, communicating only with emoticons and abbreviations, surprisingly did not make me forget how real words were spelt, though I do have concerns about the result on others. ‘Really’ became ‘reali’, ‘good’ became ‘gud’ and in a telling display of my inner bogan, ‘yeah’ became the awful ‘yer’.
In place of real world contact, I would speak to my best friend online for 12-16 hours every day of the school holidays, talking mindlessly about boys and not a whole lot else. We especially loved group chats and invited frightened young males into our inane discussions, almost always probing them with our favourite game; ‘21 Questions’. No topic was too sacred and we made our subjects promise to be honest and open when we asked them if they masturbated or which girls’ arse was better, when they hadn’t even finished reading the section about puberty in Dolly, let alone started the physical process. We made a mockery of these kids but we didn’t seem to mind – MSN gave us the confidence to be brutal and unrelenting under its electronic veil.
Peak hour was the best time of night, when thirty or more friends were online. My mind would run wild at the amount of ridiculous bitch sessions that could be had. If my crush was online, I’d either 1: Say hi or 2: Sign in and out fifty times so their entire sidebar was filled with ‘eMMa – goTTa LeT iT BuRn(u) has just signed in’, and they were forced to ask me to stop being mildly insane – entrapment in its formative years.
Online privacy was a scary thing back in the early 2000s, so no one had an email address that used their full name, no one provided their birth date, and we sure as hell didn’t put pictures of ourselves anywhere. We were anonymous and somehow it felt less safe than it does now being fully exposed. I was so wary of absolutely everyone because one of the disadvantages of no one wanting to post their life online meant you had no idea what sort of creep was adding you, asking “A/S/L” then proceeding to send you obscured photos of their genitals.
I remember simpler time in the social media world, when display photos were pictures of dogs with funny hats and profiles had little to no personal information. When you got to know someone by staying up til eleven on a school night, when ‘(f)’ was a flower, ‘(h)’ was sunglasses and when a status was whether you were ‘Away’, ‘Busy’ or going to ‘Be Right Back’. When adding someone was a gamble and blocking someone didn’t send you on a guilt trip, starting a conversation wasn’t creepy and stalking was a legitimate crime. Those are the things I really miss about MSN.
It was convoluted but it sure as hell did the job and we knew how someone was feeling not from a glance at their moody status, but by actually asking them.
So what happened to our shining beacon of communication? It actually still exists – just. A strange community of people use it nowadays and it is unknown whether they are still clinging onto the hope of resurgence in popularity -cough MySpace cough- or if they just really are stuck in a time warp. The bad news for them, and probably the whole world, is that Windows Live Messenger will become just another memory when it is rendered obsolete on the 15th of March, the day before my 23rd birthday.
I might never know.
Emma Greenbury is a semi-professional grammar nazi and a ‘sometimes’ blogger. You can read her sporadic ramblings on her personal blog here.