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Would I be bold enough to look him in the eyes and say: I like you?

AIM created “a safe space,” genderqueer writer and performer RE Katz tells me. mostly faking, some experimenting, performance.” That performance — complete with the costume of a font and the character of a username — was an attempt at being clever or sexy, at crafting a self. : The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails” and the Twitter account @Your Away Message.Katz credits AIM as helping shape their own gender expression today. The technology was new, but it wasn’t that different from what adolescents have been doing for ages. “I think it helped young women feel like they could come into their own in a lot of ways,” Moss says. In class, I was the person with the right answer — or the person constantly competing with the other smart kid who said it first.In 2001, I was 16, sitting at the computer in the family room when my best friend, Marla M12, found me on AIM.I hid a smirk with a frown so my mom wouldn’t wonder what I was up to — at that moment, trying not to be turned on.We talked about our eating disorders with a candor unavailable to us at the lunch table.

When I messaged boys I liked, I learned to have conversations where there was no pressure to arrive at a right answer.

Today, we might not need to be secretive about learning how to have phone sex.

There seem to be no limits to the sexual explicitness we consume in music and TV and film.

“Teens used the service to flirt through text, engaging in a form of written flirtation that looked a lot more like letter-writing practices decades before,” says Danah Boyd, author of “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.” That written flirtation allowed young women to construct their identities as carefully as their away messages. But online, my friends and I who fashioned ourselves as budding intellectuals who didn’t need to always talk like characters in a Woody Allen movie.

We planned Halloween costumes and epic homecoming sleepovers.

Marla M12 was instant-messaging me a guide to phone sex: “Practice saying things like, ‘You make me so hot’ …