Further aiding this new found word-shunning emoji addiction, Messenger let you create your own shortcuts that would automatically drop the little images in. So “111” could become a smiley face and “lol” a laughing smiley. Fun, yes, but you could use it to wind up your mates too, waiting for them to nip off to the loo before gleefully setting the kissy lips emoji to automatically send every time they tried to throw a cool, nonchalant “Hey” to that one they fancied.
In the days before happy slaps and internet trolls, the biggest fear was chatting candidly to someone you liked on MSN Messenger only to realise that they had four of their mates sat around snickering at your teenage angst filled proclamations of affection. You wouldn’t know straight away, but as soon as you found at, that was it, the pit in the stomach, the hot sweats, the “Muuuuuuuum, I’m too ill to go to school” efforts.
Oh, the shame. Believing someone was offline only to find out they’d just been chatting to your bezzie meant just one thing – you’d been blocked. While checking with a mate to see if a suspected blocker was actually online was embarrassing enough sign of self-indulgent paranoia, it had nothing on being added to a group chat with someone you’d just blocked.
O.M.EFFING.G!! Nothing could quite match the excitement of opening up a chat window to message your secret (not so secret, everyone knew) crush, only to see those three magical words that gave you hope that they actually liked you too – “Contact is typing…” Eek. Being able to see when someone was typing a message filled you with an excitement unparalleled to this day. Sure, WhatsApp and Facebook do the same now, but it’s not the same dammit. This was the originator.
Being able to see when someone was typing something to you wan’t all sunshine and lollipops though. It had a seriously downside. What if the message never arrived? 30 seconds of excitedly watching that ‘Contact is typing…’ message and then… nothing. It stops. No messages arrives. You can’t well chase them, they’ll know you were waiting on their every uttering, but what the hell were they going to say? We still don’t know and are haunted to this day by the mystery.
It was the ultimate sign of schoolyard rebellion, and one that would earn you maximum props amongst your peers. Installing MSN Messenger on a school computer during a tedious IT class made you a Year 8 hero. Once installed, realising all of your Messenger mates were in the same class kind of defeated the point, but your name is still being talked about around the school to this day. Mostly by teachers discussing the biggest pricks they ever taught mind.
Pah, Pokémon Go, that’s not a real game. Back in the MSN Messenger days we had proper games like Minesweeper Flags. The most intense PC-based battle you could have at the time, it involved a side window popping up with a two-player version of Minesweeper, reds vs blues. OK, that’s it, it doesn’t sound great now and hasn’t aged particularly well, but the tension was like an epic Halo battle on pep pills.
Not only did MSN Messenger precede the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger by a good decade, its heyday was firmly in the pre-broadband era. That meant that your conversations would frequently get cut short by your mum’s wails to “get off the computer, I need to phone your auntie Jill”. Ah, dial-up. How we in no way miss your ear-piercing connection tones and painfully slow download speeds.