internet culture

Mourning the Death of AIM With Memories of Our Most Embarrassing Screen Names

Photo: Getty Images

In what might be the saddest tech-nostalgia story since the death of the BlackBerry Classic, AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down after 20 years. Long before messaging superseded talking as our primary mode of communication — long before MSN Messenger and G-Chat, BBM, and iMessenger — AIM was the instant messaging forum on which to see and be seen. It was the space where all our teenage dramas played out online: a limitless repository of teenage angst and enthusiasm, flirtation and heartbreak, terrible punny screen-names and lyric-filled away messages. In honor of the death of AIM, the Cut looks back on our embarrassing screen names of yore, and how they predicted who we would be in the years to come.

“Because even as a tween I was addicted to Diet Coke. I would choose the same screen name honestly, with different numbers. Those numbers mean nothing to me.” —Sarah Spellings, morning blogger

“I was a huge Incubus fan in high school. Incubus was, and is, an alternative rock band whose popularity peaked during the days of KoRn and Staind and when Carson Daly was still painting his pinky nails black. Every time they would come to Houston, my friends and I would make shirts by ironing on those little velvet letters to spell out our favorite lyrics before the concert. I even considered getting a tattoo; bless me that I didn’t go through with that. Anyways, I thought the lead singer Brandon Boyd was really hot and I wanted everyone to know it. Fifteen years later, I sadly can’t report much has changed.” —Nora Barak, engagement editor

“In middle school I came to the realization that my original AIM screenname — liseralways — was too serious and did not reflect my true personality, so I created poopiedoopie007, which I thought was both funny and sophisticated. But I deleted the account once people at school started calling me Poopie Doopie.” —Lisa Ryan, writer

“I moved from a city to the suburbs in 7th grade and as an outsider I was naturally dubbed the rebel. I was too paralyzed by anxiety to truly be rebellious, but I still made an embarrassingly earnest effort to be my friend group’s resident “bad girl.” That included embracing the AIM name “rockin suburbia,” based off the Ben Folds Five song “Rockin the Suburbs” (Ben Folds was cool then), and siphoning so much gross gin from my parents’ liquor cabinet that I threw up in the parking lot of a Coldplay concert (Coldplay was cool then too).” —Jessica Roy, news editor

“This was my first one, because I liked cookies and the excitement and anxiety surrounding the millennium. It changed often after that, becoming increasingly more pretentious until we finally all moved over to Gchat.” —Gabriella Paiella, senior writer

“My cat-obsessed mom made my first screen name for me (she also made my sister’s, which was ‘mygoldencats.’) To be fair, many of my future screen names have also involved cats — I like to think that we were early leaders in the feline internet boom to come.” —Anna Silman, senior culture writer

“I wish I could say I thought of it because I’m cute and clever, but in reality it was inspired by a dumbass viral video I saw on eBaumsWorld. The video was about a guy who hears “Banana Phone” by the creepy kid’s singer Raffi playing on loop in his head, and it eventually makes him explode. I grew up listening to Raffi, so I thought it was the funniest shit ever. This definitely predicted my current fondness for memes.” —Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer

“This was my catholic/korean hiding my sexuality phase — the number 1004 is the same pronunciation as angel in Korean.” —Biel Parklee, senior photo editor

“I really wanted to live in California (not much has changed) and I thought I was smart for knowing champagne could technically only be called that if it was made in France.” —Leah Rodriguez, producer

“Because I can play ‘Crash’ on the guitar, I like Lolita, and I want people to know I’m pervy, even at age 12. Shortly thereafter my dad asked me to change it.” —Allison P. Davis, senior culture writer

“My middle school crush had mentioned the viral ‘Let’s Get Some Shoes’ video, so naturally when drafting my aim screen name I thought that title would make me seem so cool and dateable. Brett and I never dated but now our moms are best friends so I guess the screen name did end up adding some love into the world after all.” —Madison Mills, video producer

“Nope.” —Jen Gann, parenting editor

Remembering Our Most Embarrassing AIM Screen Names