MSN screen names were the height of teenage self-expression

<3 <3 <3

Flash back to the mid 2000s. You couldn’t express yourself through clothes because school uniform rules were too restrictive, and they wouldn’t let you dye your hair black.

But MSN screen names didn’t have any rules. We could write whatever we wanted about whoever we wanted and change it every day, sometimes several times a day: cryptic song lyrics and lame jokes. It was a simpler time.

Still – every single action, word or emojii meant something.

Telling people what you were really feeling by using a song lyric

If you can’t say it to their face, say it in a song. Your mate told you they were planning to ask out the girl you like on MSN that very night? You changed your status to a really passive aggressive lyric about how your best friend “betrayed you”.

When we were in a good mood it was indie, something by the Kooks or The Libertines about being best mates. More often than not it was angsty. Here’s a shout out to all the Hawthorne Heights, From First to Last and AFI lyrics I recycled for the sake of my MSN status. It was less of a cry for help and more of a cry to get girls to notice me.

When MSN brought in the function which showed what you were listening to, the game changed forever.

Revealing who you’re going out with

When you were 14, the first rule of dating was to add your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s name to your MSN. We started out using the heart emojii, then just cut it down to <3 because it was more scene.

Until it all went wrong.

Revealing who you’d broken up with

If you subtly tried to remove Hannah or William or Sarah from your screen name, people would know. Your friends would immediately see something was wrong and send you a message.

The more dramatic among us took it one step further and switched up love symbol for a broken heart (</3). At least then you knew who broke up with who. There was usually one person who went full caps-lock: “PLEASE TAKE ME BACK KATIE”.

Trying to be funny and really not succeeding

It’s almost like people were just Googling “funny MSN names” and picking the first thing that came up. Half of the screen names involved alcohol several years before we were really drinking.

Signing on to see names like “Alcohol ain’t the answer, but it makes u 4get d question”, meant it wasn’t actually clear who anyone was. It was common to send something to the wrong person just because the screen name seemed like something they would write. It’s fine though, because all you’d say is “Hi. How are you” anyway.

Having your name as your actual name

This was a statement. Not xx_Jack_xx. Not ⱼằȼꝅ. Just Jack. You were trying to show your friends list that you were mature now and didn’t do song lyrics or quotes.

Setting your status to ‘Busy’ just so you looked busy from your screen name

Nobody was ever “busy”. You were either on MSN because it was a weeknight and you had nothing better to do, or you were downstairs with your family. But “in a call” and “out to lunch” made us feel like we were international go-getters, rather than teenagers with wonky fringes and questionable music taste.

The appear offline button was purely for getting the attention of your crush. Everyone knows that.