Discord is a modern day AIM

Remember back in the day when you’d pop online to check in with your buddies? How good it felt to find out that person you were excited to spend time with was online?

We’d spend all day together at school and then rush home to jump on the internet and kick it.

It was both a communal space and a personal space, somehow rolled into one.

And it was trustworthy. Old faithful. AIM always worked when needed, so people were always there.

We’ve lost that experience in modern digital society.

We don’t have the serendipitous-yet-reliable space for connecting with people and communities, and we need it now more than ever, with this pandemic raging on keeping us in our homes.

It doesn’t feel like any truly communal space exists. Or it exists, but in fragmented places isolated from one another across disparate social media.

AIM felt like a digital commons.

Back in the day we each created our private Buddy Lists full of people we knew and friends from our lives. It was community, online, for the first time.

At any moment we could pop online and hang with friends, even though there’s physical distance between people. It was incredible.

Nowadays we don’t have that. We have Facebook, which is………Facebook. We’ve got Twitter, which is by default a public network. And we’ve got every other social medium out there, none of which truly have the feel of an IRL community.

That’s what AIM felt like: in person community through the computer, connecting with the people you know most on a regular basis, both synchronously and asynchronously. It was surreal at the time and it felt good to have access to all those people.

Which is what I’ve been finding in my experience with Discord.

Discord, as I’m learning, provides really solid architecture for a digital commons:

  • You can join servers, which are typically themed by group or interest
  • Servers can be public or private
  • You can pop into audio or video chat rooms at anytime
  • You can add friends to a buddy list
  • You can direct message, audio, and video chat with your friends
  • You can have fun with gifs and micro interactions in private conversations but also in larger communities

🚧 ⚠️ Rough Terrain Ahead ⚠️ 🚧

🛑 What’s this? ✍️ This whole note is a work in progress, but the below part is really rough. So why’s it here? Share ideas before they’re ready.

The ability to hold space for everything from intimate one-on-one personal relationships to large gatherings of teams, organizations, and communities is part of what makes Discord so seamless.

One identity to move through digital space. If you want anonymity, you either go all in on a pseudonym or find other ways to connect with people anonymously. Discord isn’t for you. And that’s OK.


I made this site to learn through discourse. Your thoughts here👇 or on Twitter are encouraged!

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