The Ethics Of AIM


If you were a teenager in the early to mid 2000s then you already know that the main form of internet communication was AOL’s instant messaging service, AIM. This was a time before Facebook was used universally, and before MySpace became the cyber giant it would later fail at being. If you didn’t have AIM, you weren’t ‘in the know’ among your high school classmates. If you didn’t have AIM, you were about as insightful as an issue of Penthouse with the pages torn out.

In 2006 I entered my second year of high school. I wasn’t what you would consider ‘popular’ or even remotely ‘well liked’, and years after graduating I was informed by many of my former-classmates that they thought I was most likely to shoot up the school. In all actuality, I’m the farthest thing from a violent person—I was simply asocial. I wasn’t a very outgoing fifteen/sixteen year old and, truthfully, most of my classmates annoyed me to the point where I’d have preferred nothing to do with them all together. Though, looking back on my teenage years, I may have been a bit more ‘sociopathic’ (for a lack of a better term) than I would like to think.

During my sophomore year of high school, I started to come into my own. I’d developed friendships with many students and had found myself as part of a drama-ridden (albeit consistently entertaining) clique. One week Harvey would be dating Stephanie, the next week Stephanie would get drunk and send flirty texts to Michael. We had Facebook and MySpace accounts, yes, but the only way to keep updated on up-to-the-minute news was through AIM conversations. And one evening, all that was threatened.

A user operating under the handle, ‘DragonMagic30’, messaged me out of the blue one day. ‘DragonMagic30’ wasn’t on my Buddy List and the name, certainly strange and somewhat memorable, didn’t ring a bell.

It started off with a simple, “Hello.”

Being my inquisitive self, I naturally asked who he/she was and why they chose to message me.

DragonMagic30 claimed that ‘SkatinTrini109’—one of my closest friends and someone I frequently conversed with through the instant messenger, told them to IM me.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Steve,” he said.

Well, I didn’t know any fucking Steves so I clicked the X at the top of the window. But then I got another message. One that caught my attention.

“This is your friend, right?” DragonMagic30 messaged me. And along with the question was a link to a JPG that seemed to originate from MySpace.

Now, I’m sure you’re sitting at your laptop or PC or MacBook—whatever it may be—thinking to yourself, ‘never click a link that a stranger sends you.’ Well, keep in mind that this was 2006 and I was a very naïve young lad. So I clicked the link.

Almost immediately I was signed out of my AIM account and found myself incapable of logging back in. I sat at my PC, looking at the screen stunned like my mother had just been shot in the face by a transsexual leper.

My screen name had been compromised. My password had been altered. I blew a gasket.

After a few more failed attempts at logging in, I signed onto my secondary AIM account, which I believe at the time had a username in direct reference to Harry Potter, and saw that my primary screen name—the one that’d been hacked moments earlier—was listed online.

“Hey fuckface,” I wrote to my online-Bizarro counterpart.

“Hi,” the now cloaked DragonMagic30 responded.

“How about giving me back my screen name?” I asked. I’m not sure why I did. It wasn’t as if he’d be like, ‘sure, kiddo—sorry to have bothered you, have at it!’

Predictably, I was blocked.

I lost over 90 contacts. It took me thirty days, a dozen of phone calls, and plenty of messages to get less than half of them back.

That ball of hate in my chest never went away. It just sat there for months, waiting to be released. I’d sign onto AIM and be reminded that I was the fucking dunce who had foolishly believed a random link from a stranger wasn’t a virus.

But I would have my revenge. My sweet, vicious, Kill Bill-esque revenge.

Facebook blew up. MySpace died. And leading into the summer of 2007, I was given the chance to exact vengeance upon the man that had hacked me.

You see, Facebook had a particular feature that allowed you to look up your friends through a variety of services. You can find your E-mail contacts, Yahoo contacts, MSN contacts, and…AIM contacts.

I didn’t set out to find the man that hacked my username, but it’s funny how things work out sometimes. I put the function to use with intent of boosting my friend count and as soon as I hit the ‘D’ section I was greeted by a 60×60 icon of a middle aged man with a shitty haircut and goofy grin. Next to the photo was the name, ‘Richard White,’ and beneath it, the username ‘DragonMagic30.’

In that moment, the ball of hate I had been withholding finally exerted. I clicked on his profile and looked over his details. And then I visited his friends list.

He had about 60 friends added to his profile, all of them from the greater London area. I wrote a paragraph detailing how Richard White aka DragonMagic30 attempted to send me nude photos of his mature genitalia, and that I was a young, impressionable, and certainly underage young man. I also said that he had attempted to contact my (non-existent) younger sister a number of times for reasons unknown. I copied and pasted that message and sent it to the inbox of every last one of his friends.

Of the 60-some odd friends, only 15 or so replied. Two of them claimed that ‘he couldn’t have done that’ and one went as far to say, “he spends a lot of time with me, so he didn’t do it.” Many replied, ‘Ah, thanks’ and ‘I always knew there was something off about him.’ But the plat de résistance was when I got a message back from his boss.

She’d informed me that Richard was one of her employees and that the claim I was making was a very serious one.

To which I agreed that it was a serious claim, and that it was also the absolute truth. “I have pictures to prove it,” I lied. “Would you like me to e-mail them to you?”

Thankfully she declined.

His employer went on to apologize and let me know that she was repulsed by the story and his ‘actions.’ I smiled, and walked away from my computer that day a very happy boy.

Roughly two evenings later I received a very violent and poorly written message from Richard White. He threatened to find me and break my neck, and concluded it with the words, “I WILL END YOU.”

That was the last I heard from him. But for the sake of the story, let’s just say he murdered me in 2008.

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