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“Do you remember what it felt like for a relative stranger to be like: ‘I see you’? It felt like cartwheeling down a moving walkway, going with the flow and yet still sticking the landing.
Katz credits AIM as helping shape their own gender expression today. The technology was new, but it wasn’t that different from what adolescents have been doing for ages. “I think it helped young women feel like they could come into their own in a lot of ways,” Moss says. In class, I was the person with the right answer — or the person constantly competing with the other smart kid who said it first.My friends and I played sexy on AIM because, in real life, we were bound to the rules of our parents, Catholicism, and the code that tells “smart kids” that sexual experimentation is for screw-ups.We lied and pretended we got drunk, laughing at our crafty misspellings. Still, the risks of AIM were some of its greatest rewards, especially for teenage girls.In 2001, I was 16, sitting at the computer in the family room when my best friend, Marla M12, found me on AIM.I hid a smirk with a frown so my mom wouldn’t wonder what I was up to — at that moment, trying not to be turned on.Today, such requests seem tame compared to the sort of sexual coercion marking Harvey Weinstein and other sexual harassers.
Exploiting yourself on the quest for attention was one risk with AIM.
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We talked about our eating disorders with a candor unavailable to us at the lunch table.
When I messaged boys I liked, I learned to have conversations where there was no pressure to arrive at a right answer.
Katz told me AIM “was a way we learned to enact pleasure or demonstrate that we were feeling pleasure, even and especially if we weren’t.” At the same time we were using AIM, my best friends and I were also listening to NSync.