“It was incredibly powerful for people to be able to go into chat and talk about sex and be sexual without risking their marriages, or their relationships,” noted Weiss, who estimates this practice started exploding around 1996, when AOL was first gaining steam.
“This was a way to have a brand new sexual experience without having to take the same risks you took in a real meeting.” Unlike phone sex or late nights in bars, meeting someone in an AOL chatroom for a little at-work afternoon delight was essentially free, or at least the price of a dial-up Internet connection.
We met in an AOL chatroom in the “Friends” category, bonding over a shared interest in baseball and the inspiration for his screenname; I’d impressed him by referencing the lyrics to “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” Every day (except Monday and Wednesday, when I had Hebrew school), between pm and pm, I’d grab the Compaq laptop from my parents’ room, zip past my babysitter watching General Hospital, and log onto AOL to see if Frank Zappy was on my buddy list.
I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember we talked about classic rock and which colleges he thought Dana should apply to.
It was easier to be anonymous on the Internet back then, to flirt and wink and experiment behind purposefully misspelled, sexually charged screennames like seksikittee69 and bigboi17 that weren’t tethered to a public Facebook account.