MSN Messenger, now known as Windows Live Messenger shuts down today after 13 years of service. It was once, in 1999 anyway, the most popular online chat service in the world, and with hundreds of millions of users, it was a big part of many people’s everyday lives. Unfortunately, with social networks old and new like Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, its place in the market has now finally faded away.
Windows Live Messenger contacts have been migrated to Skype, also owned by Microsoft, and any login attempts to the messenger will be unsuccessful. However, here at The Tab we would like to remember some of the features of MSN that shaped most of our social life, love life and procrastination when we were in secondary school through ‘nudging’, changing your relationship status every day and that all important ‘screen picture’.
Firstly, it was the webcam, the most common item on all 12 year olds’ birthday and Christmas lists. This enabled you to over exaggerate all facial expressions, fake actions and reactions to conversations and constantly worry that you would one day forget your webcam was still on whilst getting changed, or perhaps even hoping that you might inadvertently become ‘one of those’. I remember spending all day with my friends on webcam to randoms at the weekends, pretty sure that we would even do our hair and make-up especially. Mum would always shout “go outside, its 24 degrees”, but she didn’t understand the importance of the relationships we were building.
When I made a new friend, it seemed compulsory to ask for their ‘addy’ in order rush home and add them on MSN (after waiting 15 minutes for Mum to get off the phone and 8 minutes for the dial up broadband to connect). Here, you would develop a friendship like no other i.e. speak for hours on MSN yet never face-to-face.
This relates to the humongous life problem of email addresses. It seemed so key and life changing to ensure you had a cool one, usually comprising of some pattern including ‘xo’, ‘-‘, ‘4lyf’ and replacing a ‘y’, ‘e’ or single ‘i’ with “ii” in order to create that dreamy unique name. I also found great amusement in adding ridiculous addresses in order to see who they belonged to. Examples include “bum”, “iloveyou”, “bigtits” and “muscleboii” @hotmail.com.
Perhaps the most shameful thing about MSN was speaking to people that you were simply never going to meet, yet they somehow became your best friend. It was common for all 13 year olds to fall in love with ‘Tom from Wigan’, some people I know even ‘went out’ with these people. Can you believe that? Commitment to someone who you have only ever, and only ever will, see on webcam. True love. It was either that or they became your best friend and you spoke to them endlessly about all your life problems such as your annoying sister, your Geography homework or how long the walk home from school is.
MSN provided such a basis for conversation as well. Too often, you would talk to someone all evening (approx 4.30-8pm) and then go to school the next day and spend all your lunchbreak talking about said conversation. From personal experience, I would come home from school, go on MSN, have tea, punch my sister for trying to go on the computer, go back on MSN, get kicked off MSN by parents and then call my best friend who I had spent all day with and all evening talking to. My parents even had to once have a serious chat with me about the size of the phone bill because of it.
Then there was the infamous short hand, where although some words were shortened, most just became longer. There was the ‘double f’ phase which resulted in ‘luff’ or the ‘missing out letters’ phase, as-‘az’, was-‘wz’ to name a couple. ‘ASL’ (age, sex, location) was also the basis on many MSN adds and I’m sure many concrete relationships developed by use of this system. Another trend was the emoticons and the crazy people that had a crazy moving emotion for every letter of the alphabet making everything impossible to read. The smileys were always fun though.
Despite being a medium where people couldn’t actually see you; identity and maintaining ‘coolness’ was essential. This came from, firstly, your screen name. There was always the edgy person who had their initials, the person who had 25 people’s names separated by “:P” in their screen name despite hardly knowing any of them, the person who thought they knew what life was all about with some philosophical quote like “stars can’t shine without darkness”, the heartbroken girl with loads of ” :'( ” and a quote from The Notebook and the guy who supported Manchester United with “MUFC TIE I DIE GRRR”.
When you reached the superior times of year 9, people mostly just had their actual name having added a new letter or two to it (for example I was Lucii for about 7 years). When I realised I was totally indie, I would often “turn on what I’m listening to” just to prove how much I listened to bands no one else knew about….Come on, EVERYONE did it.
MSN won’t really be missed, I gave up on it a long time ago when I started to consider my Bebo as the most important thing in my social life. I was too busy living my edgy life listening to Kings of Leon and DJ Sammy to juggle both MSN and Bebo. However, I have highlighted how important it was to our development. For example, the skills needed for making ‘BMFLs’ with everyone on MSN now flourish when having a messy one in Jesters, and the person stood at the bar next to you becomes the one you will spend your entire life sharing secrets with.
RIP MSN, you’ve taught us well.