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Instagram's rollout of 'notes' feature sparks nostalgia for AIM

Millennials rejoiced after discovering that Instagram had seemingly reinvented the away message — a staple of 2000s internet culture.
Instagram's new "Notes" feature.
Instagram's new "notes" feature.Instagram

AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, is dead — but the away message lives on, thanks to a recent Instagram update.

On Tuesday, the social media platform rolled out a series of updates, including the notes feature, which allows users to leave text or emoji updates in posts of up to 60 characters.

Within hours of the platform unveiling the new features, social media users noticed Instagram notes' similarity to the away messages of the early 2000s.

"Instagram has turned into who can make the best AIM away message from 2006 on this new notes things and I’m here for it," singer Lou Miceli Jr. tweeted. "But literally only that, anything else you post on it is dumb."

"Was not expecting instagram to reinvent AIM away messages tbh," writer Ella Cerón tweeted.

Sports reporter Maddy Hudak wrote: "I’m sorry did Instagram give us AIM away messages lmao."

AIM was discontinued in 2017 after 20 years, but at its height in the 2000s, the AIM away message was the most ubiquitous way to share what was really on a person's mind, passive-aggressively respond to a feud or share a lyric directed at a crush.

With the rise of the Facebook status and later the Twitter tweet, social media users had new ways to share what was on their mind. But in the 2020s, nostalgia for Y2K culture has shaped much of social media and fashion, giving Instagram an opportunity to seemingly reinvent the away message.

"During testing, we learned that people liked having a lightweight, easy way to share what’s on their mind and start conversations," Instagram explained in a blog post about the new feature. "From asking for recommendations to sharing what they’re up to, Notes give people a casual and spontaneous way to express themselves and connect with each other."

The feature will appear in users' inboxes as a left-to-right scroll above their direct messages. The text is displayed as a short blurb over a user's avatar.

In addition to the notes feature, Instagram said it's testing out "candid stories," seemingly its take on the BeReal app's candid-photo-sharing platform, as well as group profiles, which will allow many people to collaborate and post on the same account.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Meta, which owns Instagram, did not address the nostalgia for AIM.

They reiterated a similar message to the blog announcement, stating that “Notes give people a casual, spontaneous way to express themselves and connect.”

People send over 140 billion messages a day over Meta’s messaging apps, the spokesperson added.

On platforms like Twitter, it was clear which new feature was a hit with millennials clinging to the nostalgia of their teenage years.

Some tweeted that it was now their opportunity to post sappy pop-punk lyrics, which so often comprised the away messages of emo millennials.

"Instagram really brought back Away Messages and didn’t make any fuss about it. About to fire up my mid-2000s emo playlist and starting stockpiling lyrics," sports journalist Pete Blackburn tweeted.

Others pondered the ramifications of the AIM away message on those who grew up with it.

"Instagram recreating away messages has me wondering if we were all on AIM because we were emo or were we emo because we were all on AIM," sports journalist Peter Bukowski wrote.

Internet reporter Scott Nover celebrated both Instagram and the apparent return of the away message in a tweet.

"This is the first good feature to come to Instagram in a decade," he wrote. "We got away messages, baby."