How to create an AIM persona as a teenager in 2003 that you will be stuck with well into adulthood.
I. Choosing a screen name
Choosing a screen name is essentially deciding who you want to be for the next decade, six months, or twenty minutes (just long enough to anonymously fuck with your ex’s ex).
Your personality lies within the core of your screen name. A basketball player? BBaLLeR. A dancer? DaNCe. A club kid? XtaScY. Why are we typing LiKe tHiS? Because we’re l33t and not n00bs.
If you’re not a fan of the uppercase, lowercase method, you’re probably over 13 and should choose two “deep” words and combine them to create your ideal screen name. For example, ‘existentialmodernism’ or ‘espressodefacto.’ If you choose this model, don’t even think of capitalizing. And if you were considering an ALL CAPS screen name, it’s likely you’re someone’s dad. Step aside and let your kid create their own embarrassing internet presence.
Someone always beats you to registering the handle you want; such is the nature of the internet. We’ll have to continue adding characters until we’ve cultivated a one-of-a-kind screen name. Add a lowercase ‘x’. What year were you born in? Add your ‘YY’ to the end. Example: DaNCex85. Stunning! (If you added your graduation year instead, congratulations on your future career in party promotion.) Time to build your Buddy List.
II. Buddy List building
Collect screen names from everyone you meet. Ask people for their ‘SN’ on the school bus, in the middle of class, and at summer camp. If you don’t have anything to write on, ink their SN on a part of your body that isn’t prone to sweat, like your calf. Hit up your friends who have been on AIM longer than you – they have a treasure trove of SNs. You need to collect as many SNs as possible, so that you never wake up in the middle of the night with no one to IM. Nothing more depressing than a Buddy List full of away messages. Be discriminate once your number gets “up there,” you can only have 200 buddies and you need to keep room for your seven alter egos.
Once you’ve acquired enough screen names, it’s time to create a hierarchy. Your crush gets their own category on your Buddy List, titled simply, “<3” or the more enthusiastic “<33333.” Set up an alarm for whenever they sign on – both pop up and audio (the .wav of a cow mooing seems to be effective).
Next, you’ll need to decide what to call your two primary categories. Whatever you call them, their meaning is more or less universal – one means “Friends” and one means “Enemies.” Suggested categories include “FrEaKz” and “GeEkZ” or “HoTtiEs” and “NoTtiEs.” Alternately, you can divide the two groups into females and males; in which case you may want to use “HoEs” and “BrOs” or “SiStAs” and “BRoThaS” – it’s really up to you.
A third suggested category would be “I’m a stalker,” where you quarantine all of the people you don’t actually know. Why would you keep people who aren’t your buddies on a Buddy List? To stalk their away messages, of course! This is where your crush’s girlfriend lives. This is where the hot person you’re jealous of lives. (Years from now, you’ll see these people on Facebook and the envious teenager in you will die. From laughter, mostly.)
Keeping these people in a “safe place” isn’t necessary, but it is strategic. Ever hover over someone’s screen name for a while and forget to IM them? Next thing you know, they’ve signed off and you’ve accidentally IM’ed your new boyfriend’s ex. Or, one of your sane friends comes over afterschool and notices that you’ve been keeping tabs on forbidden fruit via your Buddy List after you promised you’d quit being a crazy person. Wouldn’t it be easier to collapse that section and keep your questionable behavior under wraps?
Lastly, you’ll need a special section for confirmed and suspected famous people. Obtained the screen name of Lance Bass (Impoofu)? In the rare occasion that he signs on, you won’t want his screen name sandwiched between Lindsey and Maura from gym class. You can also place “suspected” famous people here, whom you found by entering vague terms like “singing” and “touring” into AOL’s profile search filter.
III. Creating a ‘persona’
Your font is the first thing people see when you IM them. It should be unique and scream, “DaNCex85!” Choose Arial, pt size 8. This says, “Struggle to read me, bitch,” and also, “I’m not your average Comic Sans motherfucker.”
Choose red or purple as your font color. Blue is unacceptably typical. The guys will already have a blue font because it’s “a man’s color,” and girls will have a blue font because they’re “one of the guys.”
Do not bold your font or have a background color unless you want to clash with everyone. Don’t be an eyesore – let people accurately represent themselves as xTaScYx87 without your gaudy background color obstructing their persona.
Now, let’s talk about your avatar. Your avatar shouldn’t be you – it should be a reflection of you. Use a picture of a baby smoking a cigarette or a cat making an interesting face. You can also use an avatar with no inherent meaning, like a pineapple. Do not use the AIM clipart of a soccer ball if you ever want to make it to third base with your crush. Other unacceptable avatars: Michael Jordan, golf clubs, cartoons.
You’ll also need your own IM chime. That way, if someone is in bed or in the bathroom, they’ll hear your distinct IM chime and know that you’re beckoning them. Choose a clip from Madonna’s “Get into the Groove” or a whistle. Do not choose the .wav of a woman screaming; no one will ever IM with you again.
IV. Crafting a profile
Your profile is where people go when they want to delve deeper. Who is this DaNcEx85? What makes her tick? This is where you put your favorite Fleetwood Mac lyric and your anniversary date (following this format: “dd.mm.yy <3 always be my baby”). This is where you show your softer side.
But first! You need to set bait for unsuspecting profile visitors. Create a photo account, preferably on Webshots. Upload a collection of your scanned photos. Then mask the link using IMChaos. Drop the link in your profile and label it something innocent, like “Pictures! :D” Whenever someone clicks that link, you’ll know about it. You might’ve made it into a few quarantined Buddy List categories yourself, you know? Now you’ll know who’s stalking you, and you can use it to exploit and embarrass people later on.
But back to your “soft side.” Spray a series of inspirational quotes by Marilyn Monroe or Derek Jeter into your profile. Write prose to no one in particular. Press “Return” until your cursor won’t go further down and when you’ve reached the end of your profile, borrow a quote that makes you sound a bit unstable, but dealing. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Send a 143 to your girls.
And now you’re ready to send your first IM!