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Indeed, as AOL’s own statement about the shutdown says, “The way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed”—in large part because of AIM.Of course, for technology buffs still looking toward bygone technologies, another cue-lean, relational technology introduced in 1997 is making a comeback: The Tamagotchi digital pocket pets were re-released in November.In fact, he says, systems like AIM made it easier to form relationships online, because people might be less critical or judgmental of each other, knowing that some social cues were missing—and focus more on the words of the conversation itself.
While certainly not the first form of social interaction online, AIM established for many people one of the most critical elements of online identity: the screen name.
Yet communication research shows that screentime can complement rather than take away from facetime.
For instance, scholars such as sociologist danah boyd argue that these venues were (and are still) critical for teenagers, who used AIM as a private space to engage each other and explore their own identities.
While some feared that teenagers’ use of techno-gibberish would damage their language development, today’s millennials are reading more than any other generation.
This use of language suggests they may have more—not less—sophisticated communications skills.
A few savvy tech users used pager-speak to communicate “143” (“I love you”) to their partners; a few others learned how romantic an email can be.