Today marks the last day of MSN Messenger before it permanently shuts down and merges with Skype. In a way, it signals the end of an era of my life. It’s a service I used for almost half my life since I was 13. It had a profound effect on my life. It was the first real social network I was part of.
Years ago, I mostly hid out on IRC or battle.net. If someone wanted to find me online, they knew I could always be found there. I didn’t even have an AIM or Yahoo username for some time. Nothing about them appealed to me. I felt like I was “too cool”. In reality, I just didn’t really know anyone on it. Then out of the blue one night, someone asked if I used MSN. It was a warm summer night, I was sitting in my parents’ basement. Apparently, it was the app everyone in our middle school was using. Ah middle school peer pressure, I knew you well.
It was our generations’ Facebook. “Do you have Nicole on your list?” “Is Mark appearing online? Is he blocking me” “Does Alice use MSN?” Instead of pages, we had a display status. It was how we knew what everyone was doing, where they were, and who they were with.
It was also the first time I started talking and getting to know people from school. Before, I hardly ever spoke. To anyone. I was the shy, nerdy kid no one really knew. But online, I was that king of nerds stereotype that still makes me cringe to this day. I was the one everyone came to for tech support. I was like a living, breathing Google. But it was thanks to MSN I managed to become more sociable and got to know the people around me. It was because of MSN I asked someone out on my first date (they even said yes). In high school, it was through MSN that I talked a close friend out of committing suicide. And it was because of MSN I managed to stay close friends with some amazing people still today.
And because of my digital hoarding persona, I even have some chat logs of the more colorful conversations dating back over 10 years ago. I could go on about all the stories that happened. While 90% of the time was spent goofing off, making ASCII status messages or fun scripts and bots, I like to think it helped change me for the better.