You may not have noticed, but last week we bid farewell to a cultural icon. Or rather, a library of cultural icons - dominated by smiley faces, broken hearts and little hugging people with no legs. On Friday, after 15 years serving hundreds of millions of users, MSN Messenger logged out of our lives forever.
Yes, there’s G-Chat. Sure, we’ve still got Skype. But when it came to pure, aRbiTrArIlY pUnCtUaTeD cyber-emotion, MSN served noughties adolescents like no other. For most of us, it was where we first learned that we could express ourselves with typing in a way quite different, possibly better, then with the spoken word. It was where friendships were formed, and destroyed, and put on hold while we went to eat our dinner (brb).
Things I learned from MSN messenger:
Real life acquaintances are overrated. With Messenger, a swift “how’s you?” and a handful of emoticons could bridge the gap of face to face interaction, making your potential social circle as wide as the ocean is deep. Your friend’s cousin’s brother’s best friend’s sister could be a kindred soulmate and you’re being held back by the fact you don’t actually know her? What do you want, a blood pact?
Signing out then in again will not get you a boyfriend. But at times, when you’re a 14-year-old at an all-girls’ school with a crumpled photo of Adam Rickett in your pencil case, the only hope you have rests with making your name bob up and down repeatedly in a boy’s periphery vision until they’re eventually wearied into going out with you.
There is no life event so colossally tragic that it cannot be used as an attention-seeking screen name. Had an argument with someone? Make it your screen name! Failed your geography coursework? Make it your screen name! Great fun was to be had from engaging someone called ‘☹SoSOsad☹‘ in persistently chirpy conversation, never once asking the cause of their subtly-referenced woe. Until you found out they just lost half of their family in a house fire.
In the modern age, you can never be completely sure who you’re talking to. “Hey Zoe.” “This isn’t Zoe, it’s Debbie.” “Oh. Hey Debbie.” “It’s not Debbie anymore, it’s Sharice.” “Oh. Hey Sharice.” “No, it’s Debbie again. Zoe’s on the toilet.” “Right. Hi Debbie.” “Now it’s Maud.” “lol”.
Think through your novelty email address thoroughly before committing. Today’s youths probably have very sensible firstname.lastname@ formats, set up for them by savvy parents before they were even born. But in the giddy days of 2003, we didn’t see job applications or UCAS forms or baffled grandparents; we just saw that ‘bubblyairheaddevilchick87’ was free and wanted to make it our own.
(At the very least, don’t do what I did and choose a Velvet Underground song to be cool, not realising it was also an infamous French S&M novel, then merrily hand it out to friends, relatives, bosses and UCAS before red-facedly discovering the truth three years later. Don't do that.)
Inspiration credit due to @MSNRemembrance