I remember when I got my first login name for AOL. I was 10, and I can recall the sheer joy of hearing the dial tone of the phone line we set up just for the internet like it was yesterday. I believe my name was BlueQTbaby, and I had the account with a parental block, which means no year 2000-era Worldstar searching for me. But I didn't care. I was now a member of the web world, albeit a small one with limited connectivity.
A few years later, I pestered my father to upgrade my account so that I could officially graduate from blocked pages and use AIM. AOL Instant Messenger was the zenith of my post-pubescent internet experience. I was ecstatic. Time spent there was always engaging, full of laughs with all of the people I knew, song lyric away messages (which was damn near the predecessor of the subtweet), and GroupMe's great-grandmother, the chatroom.
That block of time when you knew everyone would be logged on was a thrill, but it didn't consume us. At some point in the night, you'd notice more and more grammar-insulting screen names convert to grey italics, paired with all the shuttering, gaudy exit sounds (I specifically remember snippets from Dipset and Alicia Keys frequenting my speakers). Other than that, all I ever used the computer to do was homework. Seriously.
My, how things have changed over the course of 13 years.