The Internet Before Social Media

It’s hard for me to remember a time before Facebook and Twitter were common daily visits during my time spent online. And if I’m being honest, I’m glad that they weren’t around when I was in middle and high-school. Myspace was a big thing during my junior and senior year, and Facebook became popular in my area just as I was heading off to college. Although some people might argue that now is the best time to be active online, I think I had the most fun on the Internet when I was 9-16 years old. Here’s why.

aim convos

AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)

I would say that my social life depended greatly on AIM- AOL Instant Messenger. Everyone who was anyone had a screen name- usually something really embarrassing with the word “chica” or their football number in it- and spent a good chunk of their after-school hours on the addictive chat program. Coming from a small town and school, my classmates and I would have group chats at night after school where we just made fun of each other, shared funny pictures, and played games. It was also a great way to see what everyone was doing. If you were at the basketball game, you’d write it in your away message. If you were going through a breakup, you’d put some “Taking Back Sunday” lyrics in your profile.




Don’t ask me how I got started on this internet phenomenon, because I can’t even remember. Neopets was this virtual pet website where you adopted strange creatures and played with them, bought them stuff, etc. I remember you received coins for every game you played and I was all about having the most coins. Clearly I was a greedy, awkward 12- year old.


cartoon doll

Cartoon dolls

My first taste of graphic design and web design was making cartoon dolls (or Dollz/Prep Dolls as they were sometimes called). I used good old MS Paint and Gimp to create and customize the dolls- which were basically a mix between Barbies and paper dolls in a graphic form. I loved designing their clothes, coloring their hair and of course changing their makeup. I even displayed my dolls on my own website, which was hosted by Gurlpages (anyone remember that?).




I’m not going to say I illegally downloaded music. But I’m not going to say I didn’t either. Kazaa was one of the first file-sharing P2P services I used. While it gave my brother and I a huge collection of songs and videos, I’m pretty sure it ultimately led to our family desktop crashing. Sorry Dad.


Hamster dance

I remember watching this tons of times with friends and we would sing the song out loud. It would not get out of your head. Then there was the fishy dance and a bunch of spin-offs, which were equally as annoying and addictive. You can even view the original page here. You’re welcome.



I suppose LiveJournal was my first attempt at blogging. I wrote what I did each day, the funny things that happened in school, and even wrote reviews of shows like American Idol. I deleted my account a long time ago, but it would be hilarious to re-read all the stuff I wrote. I remember I had so many internet friends and we all commented on each other’s journals- much like blogging today!

What were some of your favorite websites/games you remember from the Internet in the 90’s/early 00’s? 


  1. aah I remember Kazaa, good old days. I remember Caramail it was kind of the french version of aol my name on it was Cutie-Shelly lol.

  2. Oh my god aim! I remember when you’d meet someone at a dance in middle school and exchange screen names- the good old days!

  3. Oh my gosh, what a flash back! AIM, Neopets, Livejournal… man. I have to agree though, I’m SO glad that Facebook came into my life when I was a bit older (I think I got mine around the end of my Junior year in high school). When I was graduating college, I’d see younger students with old profile pictures going back to early high school….. not exactly prime years for most people. I’m so glad the Internet doesn’t have proof of my awkward years!

    1. Same here! haha there’s definitely some awkward high school stuff on my Facebook, but I’m glad I didn’t really start using it until late highschool/early college, too!

  4. AIM was the best! My friends and I would just sit on there for hours chatting away. And I had a LiveJournal too! Facebook was just coming out when I was in college…you could actually search for people by putting in your classes. Back then you could find someone just from their first name!

  5. Oh wow, I had totally forgotten about the hamster dance. I definitely don’t miss the dial-up connection to AOL.
    I remember when FB came out – I was a freshman in college and at that time, it was only available at certain universities. It’s funny how quickly it blossomed into something just about everyone has.

  6. This just bought me back almost 10 years in 5 minutes. I love it!

    I was also a livejournaler hangin’ on myspace, taking care of my neopets, while listening to some weird music I had just found and thinking about working on my geosites about my friends hahha. Hilarious!

    1. haha glad you liked it! I thought I was the only one obsessed with neopets- it was an issue! Oh yes and I was a website master with Geocities- gosh!

  7. Ahh, memories. I LIVED for Aol 3.0 chatrooms back in the day. It’s so weird to think how none of this social media nonsense (that we all need and love) existed back then!! Crazy.

  8. Oh my gosh this brings me back to jr. high!!! Too funny. I think the internet was better back then. I loved instant messenger and all the terrible screen names that go along with it. Mine was whatrudoing91289 and Allison’s was foxyladies4 hahaha oh man. Good times.

  9. OMG this is bringing back so many memories haha! I spent HOURS on AIM. HOURS. And had the most insightful profiles too 😉 LOL.

    BUT SERIOUSLY, the hamster dance!? Forgot about it, LOVE IT! Thanks for this post, it just made this snowy May Day a lot better!

  10. So many memories! The Internet was definitely so different back then! I remember everything except the Hamsters haha. And Kazaa definitely ruined my family’s desktop computer as well! Whoops.

  11. It’s so crazy how technology has changed! In a few years older than you, but when I started college email was just starting and I remember thinking, I don’t think I’ll set up an email, who needs that, I write letters! Little did I know that the age of letters was dying (sad) and that email was going to be our new mode if communication.

  12. haha! This is a blast from the past! We must be around the same age, I always think about how glad I was that there was no twitter, cellphone madeness or anything during junior and senior high! We did have msn messenger which was fun for grade 12 when my parents finally bought a computer that worked! I definitely miss the hours and hours I wasted on Kazaa 😛 Good times! Thanks for the flashback 😀

  13. omg…AIM. and smarterchild. this cracked me up! i had good old napster back in the day and used kazaa in college…makes me feel old!

  14. I was JUST talking about this with my roommate – so crazy! We went back to check out our MySpace (mine was so emo….I was totally embarassed, haha) and live journal accounts. Love the trip down memory lane 🙂

  15. Oh the memories… I loved Kazaa. That was so simple and easy to use. And I used to have a Live Journal. The original Blogger! Pre-Myspcae I used a site called The Dilly. haha I actually still talk to someone I “met” there.

  16. these are so funny to look back on! i was addicted to MSN, especially in like grade 7-9 or 10 , i would spend any free time chatting on that thing! and so true about the song lyrics in your screen name – it was like a way of sending subliminal messages to people about how we really felt

  17. Ha this is too funny. I totally had neopets too, but I think I mainly just played the games on there. Although now that I’m thinking about it I guess you had to feed it and stuff? Maybe I was more into it than I’m remembering 😉

  18. Xanga & AIM all the way baby! Oh the days of trying to figure out if a boy had a crush on your friend via AIM & sharing angsty stories on Xanga! All on dial up internet & during the hour a day my parents let me enjoy!

  19. LOL, flashbacks! AIM was the best…my college roomie and I would IM each other from opposite side of the room! SO lame! And LiveJournal was my first blogging attempt as well. I’ve looked back at it once or twice and its crazy.

  20. This made me laugh! I was in college during the heyday of AIM, and Napster came out when I was a freshman. I often look back and think how lucky I got – I was in college at the point where this stuff was just coming about, so we got to take advantage of the lack of rules, but before the huge social media explosion of facebook/instagram/etc where your every move was documented on the internet for all to see!!

  21. This post brings back so many memories! In college my roommates and I actually randomly started playing Neopets again for a short time. Yeah…. I guess we had nothing better to do? haha

  22. Oh my gosh! I remember all of this so well! Of course we used “lime wire” instead of Kazaa but everything else sounds exactly like my teenage years. And SmarterChild! I totally forgot about that! hah!

  23. Omg, AIM! The away messages/bios were really something. I’m hysterical just thinking about it. Biggest time suck everrrrrrr.

  24. Ahh you’re making me nostalgic! I loved the days of AIM, my sister and I used to have so much fun on it. Thanks for taking it back 🙂

  25. oh my gosh yes yes yes I love this post so much!! I’ve been using the Web basically since it was new (back in 95). My boyfriend and I actually met on ICQ in 2000 and ironically we lived just a few miles away. We’ve been together since then 🙂
    I loved Cartoon Dolls! I still have a bunch I made up on my Web site, and actually I made some new ones a few years ago. I loved Hamster Dance, too. There are so many fun sites I miss though! I don’t know if you ever saw the cyber pet adoption sites but those were some of my favorites.. basically artists all over the web would draw creatures and put them up to “adopt”. I think Neopets kind of killed those sites but oh I miss them so much! Faeries Are Among Us was another awesome site.. you could explore the site and find these little games and win “prizes” in the form of a graphic which doesn’t really sound too interesting but those were the best days of the Internet. Social media has really killed off a lot of the creativity that was on the Web originally, I think.

  26. ohhhhh myyyy gooodnessss, I love this! Such a throwback and I totally agree that not really having the internet was awesome growing up! My youngest siblings (12 & 13) are too dependent on it. Love the SmartChild reference lol

  27. Oh man, this is just awesome! We have to be almost, if not the exact same age. Dollz! AIM! Livejournal! Coming home from school and chatting online with friends before dinner, before it was the norm for teens to even have cell phones. Did you have a beeper?

  28. Wow, this was amazing. SmarterChild – how could I forget SmarterChild?! I said some pretty awful things to him just to see what he’d say. I feel kind of bad about it now…

  29. I remember being SO excited to find out I could have a shop on Neopets. I think that night, I was up all night trying to sell things. I used Xanga as a blog though. I had like five of them: one was my personal one, one for quotes, one for layouts, and then a few other even lamer ones that I can’t remember.

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