Gchat (or "Google Talk," as it was officially called and never known), the simple in-Gmail chat service, has been sunsetted. From all the eulogizing on the internet, you would imagine that in-email chat had been killed completely, another footnote in the march of obsolescence. It’s only been upgraded to Hangouts, a slicker, more flexible platform that can support things like animated gifs and group video calls, along with in-email chat. This wave of mourning for Gchat seems to be less about the service itself and more about the time when we could live our lives in its little windows, when our romances and comedies and dramas fit neatly into a two-inch text-box, when we had nothing to do but sit around and chat all day, even when we technically had other things to do.
We sent each other links. We fell in love. We talked frequently about Beyoncé, unlikely animal friends, that weird guy in the breakroom, and really anything that wasn’t the task at hand. We couldn’t wait to share gossip. We chatted all day every day until one of us got a new job and went from always green to never green. We had a clever status message. We emailed the person we were interested in for no reason except to make them pop into our chat, and then never messaged them because what would we say? We obsessively reread saved conversations. We cultivated intimacies with unlikely people and revealed hopes and dreams late at night, alone together in the glow of our screens. We decided whether we were “hahaha” or “lol” people. We used emojis ironically and then earnestly. We chatted off the record when we thought bosses were watching, as though they weren’t recording every keystroke. We fell out of love, or suspected the other person’s lack of response meant they had. We were typing, but then we weren’t. We started texting.
Goodbye Gchat, and goodbye to our younger selves, those brave, beautiful idiots that we all still have inside of us somewhere. At some point this week, we may be tempted to revisit the archives and get a sense for who those people were and what they talked about, but let’s try to resist the urge to memorialize them with statistics about the who and where and what. The personal in this case is not the universal; it’s like hearing about someone else’s dreams. We each have our own stats, our own heavy accumulated chat history. We’re the sum total of it, an immense body of text remarkable only in its sweet mundanity.