I hear this noise and instantly smile at the thought of a new message from an ICQ buddy while the petals of a daisy rotate on my mind’s monitor.
One of the first internet-wide instant messaging systems (see Wikipedia for more) ICQ was probably my first real experience on the internet. Or, at least, the first one I remember. And so, I guess, I could say that not only was it the first hook but what set me on this path to the online communications world I inhabit now.
So…when did it all begin for me??? I would guess sometime around mid-1997 or toward 1998. And who introduced me? Well, my then boyfriend of course. He was already using ICQ and playing with MP3 downloads and stuff…he got me interested and then enthused about what lay out there in the online space.
I remember me taking a while to get it and not really seeing the point. And then I found a few people all over the world with similar interests to me. At first the novelty and then the sheer amazement of being able to have a pretty much real-time conversation with someone on the other side of the world that I didn’t even know existed before was overwhelming for a while.
I don’t think it took very long for it (or rather the online me, IndiaBlue) to be a part of everyday ‘real’ life though. Certainly from September 1999 it was everyday as I had my own computer and own dial-up internet connection (clickety-click, hummmmmm, buzz, bing, bing, click) and from my dank uni room I explored other bits of the internet while ICQ buddies chatted with me.
I explored the possibilities of ICQ as well. The idea of being anonymous and revealing only parts of your identity was there and had a novelty value but no real worth in developing conversations and online relationships (and I’m not talking romantically). It was interesting though to play in such a place and develop my online needs from what I discovered about myself and the medium.
On reflection, I am much more excited and satisfied with the social media I use now as a means of enhancing existing relationships by complimenting other channels of communication than as a way of being someone else with someone you don’t know.
There are few people I remember from the ICQ-era although I do recall having several intense but ultimately short-lived friendships strike up across the messages. There are a couple though with whom ICQ was just the introduction to a friendship which has spread and survived other social media and even crossed over to become face-to-face friendships on occasion.
I don’t even know what ICQ looks like now…I know it still exists. Does it do only what it did back them (instant message and a pretty crude – but fun – real-time chat where you could watch people try and delete something as they went along)? I doubt it. I would guess it must have evolved to survive.
As time went on I followed buddies onto other systems while keeping true to ICQ. I sampled AOL chat with the guy from BJ and the Bear (now there’s a concept I can’t get enough of) and used Messenger as well, which now vies with Skype as my IM of choice.
But by the tail-end of 2000 I was moving away from ICQ toward the raggedy edge of the Blogosphere. And perhaps it says something about the online me that I don’t feel the curiosity to go back to ICQ and see what has become of it but would rather look back on it fondly as the beginning of things…
(Note to self: there are a few ideas I would like to look at further here around the difference between old style / new style social media.)