Today we text and tweet with impunity, but in the '90s, text-based real-time computer communication (in the form of chat rooms or instant messaging) was new technology for most people. Internet chat rooms had been developed as early as 1980 by Compuserv, and users of internet bulletin board servers could engage in a form of nearly real-time chat once instant messaging spread to the masses in 1997. That's when America Online opened up its AOL Instant Messenger program to everyone -- whether they were AOL subscribers or not.
Thus did the terms "buddy list," "IM me!" and "away message" enter the American lexicon. Late '90s instant messaging users could scarcely imagine that they'd be able to accomplish the same thing today from their smartphones, but the ubiquity of real-time communications in the '90s certainly paved the way for our current comfort with perpetual internet contact. No matter where you are, all your friends are only a Facebook update away.