From 2020 looking back, my memories of MSN feel like one long slow motion panic attack.
How Does Software Make You Feel? https://permanentlymoved.libsyn.com/301-2023-how-does-software-make-you-feel
Lurking: How a Person Became a User: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374194338
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo
Do You Remember MSN?
What do you remember about it?
Is it the OG XP interface with someone’s screen name far too long to fit across the application window’s title bar
That little orange X in the top right corner?
The open question ‘I want too…’
Invite someone to the conversation?
Send a file or photo?
Send an email?
Or ask for assistance?
Or is it a later interface?
With a status saying they are ready for the weekend or a favourite song lyric?. Dressed in newer pastel colours with little icons across the top. The chat window up top with their avatar on the right, yours below. Do you remember when we expressed our emotions with emoticons not emojis?
I was an MSN user. Perhaps a Messenger addict. I remember those times in the early 2000’s where it was vital for my mental health. As a teenager swept up in a tempest of emotions I relied upon it to get through.
What else do you remember?
I remember an impossible number of chat windows across the windows xp taskbar. A time before tabs were even invented. Multiple windows sitting unread flashing, blinking for my attention. At the other end was another human who needed to converse as much I did.
Some were from school, others were folks I’d met on forums across the internet. Each conversation interrupted hourly. “BRB i gotta drop off”
Imagine breaking your internet experience into hour long sprints in 2020? Having to drop off line because your mum needs the phone. Instead we get in 20second loops on our phones, checking for notifications that we know don’t exist.
Do you remember what you used to talk about on MSN?
Hours, Days, Years of communication that now, 20 years later isn’t even a real memory. I have no archives, no chat logs or evidence of existence from back then. And Indeed I think it would be immoral to have even done so.
The memory of all those nights spent sitting in my families back room at a hearing aid beige PC now feels like a dream.
Last month in Episode 2023 I asked: How Does Software Make You Feel?
My somatic memory of using msn back then when taken in aggregate fall into two separate memories:
I remember experiencing the emotional tennis volleys played out across the chat windows. Usually multiple conversations at once. Complicated currents of sociality and communication, like rockpools filling as the tide turns. Eddies of intensity amongst the back and forth, ebb and flow of online chat. Still in 2020, the medium I feel most comfortable communicating with others with is the chat window. A portal that you can pour your heart and soul into.
The other thing I remember when I think back two decades from today are those moments of intensity. Sometimes the heavy weight at the pit of my stomach, other times a pressure rising though my core, across my chest and down my arms. Heat across my neck. That is my body memory of a piece of software.
A state which now with the benefit of hindsight, I recognise perhaps as the description of a panic attack. As I said, it all feels like a dream the morning after now. Could using MSN as a teenager back in the early noughties really only really register in my memory today as one long slow motion panic attack?
I think so. I wonder how people who have survived the last decade on Twitter will feel in the 2040’s. When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck. These tools certainly cause a kind of Trauma. We collectively mitigated some of this with informal manners and mores. Like turning your MSN on and off to get someone’s attention. Copying and pasting messages from one chat to another so an ally could ‘interpret’ what was meant by “kk bb cool. C u l8r”. Or Seeing someone sign in and waiting a bit before you sent them a message..Because you weren’t a psycho.
Speaking of which, MSN messenger also was my first (and certainly not the last) experience of being stalked online. I dealt with obsessive messages from someone a year below me at school. It was weird and fucked up.
I’ve only just remembered all that this morning as I wrote the script. Unspooling old memories of how it took me a year to deal with a situation at the age of 15/16. as it all comes flooding back, It involves behaviour on both our parts that I’m not proud of and frankly shocked by today. But I remember how necessary it all felt at the time. I just wanted it to stop.
I have just bought Lurking: How A Person Becomes A User by Joanne McNeil. I haven’t read it yet to my shame, but this episode was inspired by what she has had to say in various interviews for the book’s release etc
There are no nice pithy words of conclusion to this episode. Other than perhaps it has been another nudge – haha see what i did there? That we should encourage one another to reflect more on the emotional relationship with the tools we use. Will the last decade of the feed UX cause PTSD in some in 2040? I hope not, but I can’t be sure. Reflect on how platforms and the people on them make you feel today and how you want to feel about this period of your life in 20 years time.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.
Yet again, I’ve been given a flash of inspiration from Jay’s 301 Permanently Moved podcast. “Do you remember MSN?” asked the podcast app notification. And just like that, all at once, I remembered it.