History of Social Media

Social media by definition is a way people interact online – networks and virtual communities where they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas. Internet users spend more time on social networking sites than any other type of site.

The first major social network to launch was SixDegrees. This site was based off the “six-degrees of separation” concept and lasted from 1997 to 2001. It allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally. If the person was not a member of the site, they were invited to join. Users could send messages and post bulletin board items to people in their first, second, and third degrees, and see their connections to any other user on the site.

Friendster was a close friend of Napster, the popular peer-to-peer Internet file-sharing service. The site went live in 2002 and gained 3 million users in the first few months. The site was based on the Circle of Friends social network allowing individuals to network in virtual communities. The site was the most popular social network through 2004, and was dethroned by MySpace. The website actually relaunched as a gaming site, but eventually shut down in June 2015.

MySpace launched in 2003. From 2005 until 2008, it was the most popular social networking site. MySpace allowed users to create profiles, add photos, connect with friends and share information. Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe co-founded the site, and as a result Tom was every user’s first friend. The site was widely used by musicians and artists as a way to share music. The site even allowed users to embed a music player on his/her personal profile.

MySpace was eventually overtaken by the giant we know today as Facebook. However, these three sites weren’t the only early forms of social media. Instant messaging services such as AOL and ICQ were other virtual ways for people to connect with friends online. Users spent hours thinking of the perfect “away” message to show their friends. For the first time, friends could “talk” in real time without picking up a phone or seeing each other in person.

Message boards and forums also allowed people to interact and share online about a common interest or topic. In this format, people weren’t necessarily talking to friends or even acquaintances they knew. People could seek advice about health concerns, share their love of music or voice their opinion on a news story. With this online communication, users could be more anonymous than having to sign up for an online profile.

Think about how social media has grown and developed in the past 15 years. Even 10 years ago, there would have never been a class at OBU dedicated to social media. Even though these early sites may not be relevant today when talking about social networking, it helped pave the way and develop the major players we have like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. They helped transform how we communicate online, how people are able to interact with one another and how businesses and companies can get in on those conversations.

For discussion in the comments –

What was the first social network that you joined? When was that and how old were you?

What elements of some of these early networking sites influenced today’s major social networks?

Read this article – Why do you think that instant messaging and blogs should be included when talking about the history of social media?

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64 thoughts on “History of Social Media”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post as well as the accompanying article, particularly since we get to look at a timeline of sorts of the evolution of social media. We need to be able to understand the roots of social media, particularly with some of the core functions of outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

    The first social network, as we’d think of social networks today, that I joined was MySpace. I was 13 at the time, so I didn’t use my real picture, but rather an avatar that kind of looked like me. However, I had an MSN Messenger account before then and I was part of a forum called BZPower; I was a fan of a Lego line of toys called Bionicle, and BZPower was a place for me to connect with other fans (one of them was training for the Junior Olympics at the time and was an accomplished gymnast!). I wrote a few short stories for fellow forum members (within the franchise universe), which actually helped me hone my writing skills (there was a dedicated sub-forum for people to make comics using Microsoft Paint, but I sucked at art and still do, so I stuck to writing). I don’t maintain active membership at BZP, but I might swing by since Lego did reboot the franchise last year.

    MSN Messenger and Myspace both had status updates, which is pretty much a staple of almost every social network we know today. Emerging networks like Ello use status updates. Technically, a tweet can be a status update. Beyond the status update, “liking” posts has been a core function. Sharing media, like photos and videos, is definitely a key part of social networking. Even private messaging is crucial (because we *definitely* don’t want Becky or John to know that we’re trash-talking about them behind their backs while posting happy photos of them). I’ll even vouch for ads; MySpace had ads, and now Facebook and even Tumblr have ads.

    Instant messaging may only be a component of social networks now, but it still was an early pioneer of sorts for social networking. Back in the day, when not everyone had unlimited messaging, we used our computers to instantly talk to our friends with ridiculous screen names and to send silly animated messages before our parents told us to go outside and play more. To turn to blogs, your choices were to either start a WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal account or use the blog widget on your MySpace page; the MySpace option provided more interaction than the former option. Now that we have microblogging sites (namely Tumblr), we see that blogging has not only risen to become a prominent form of social networking, but also rooted in its history. Let’s roll back to WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal for a second. Once MySpace began to boom, we saw these services become more social. For example, I used to run a little poetry and short stories blog on WordPress, and I got to connect with some different people who also wrote short stories and poetry across the globe, people I still keep in contact with from time to time. We found each other through the WordPress dashboard and by recommending each other on our blogs. We carved out a social space for us. Niche? You bet it was niche. But it was our place to socialize and talk about our writings.

    Yes, this was a long comment, but those of y’all who know me know I freaking love discussion. So discuss away!

    -Matthew

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    1. I loved the anecdote about your poetry blog. It’s such a great example of just how useful social media can be. Allowing you to connect with others interested in the same subjects as you facilitates learning in that particular area and encourages others to keep pursuing their passions. Thanks for sharing!

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      1. Thanks for the reply, Ali! It really did mean for me to connect with other writers. One of my dear friends is a chemist in Nigeria. He wrote some of the most beautiful poetry and short stories, often incorporating his native of language of Igbo; really touching work that gave me a new perspective on life in a country I’ve never been to, but so long to visit just to see it through my friend’s eyes!

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    2. Thanks for your insight Matthew. I completely agree that instant messaging was an early pioneer for social media. It made people realize the need they had to keep in touch.

      I think your comment about the forum honing your writing skills is interesting. While there is the argument that it’s made people more sloppy with abbreviations. I certainly think the case can be made that it can also help. Twitter definitely makes writing more succinct. You have to think about how you can fit your message into 140 characters. Blogging and web writing also had a distinct style that can help people learn to be better writers.

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      1. It was easy for most story writers on BZPower to use lots of text slang; believe me, I started out like that, but I’ve fortunately come a long way from those very early days. Twitter, however, is a whole other animal as it is. How can we express ideas fully within 140 characters? That’s something we have to push, with many ideas being expressed in a string of tweets.

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  2. The first form of social media I joined was called “Piczo”. It resembled that of Myspace or Xanga, but held a fairly small user base when I joined the site at 13 years old. It was the coolest new thing at school, and everyone was getting one. It allowed you to have a chatroom on your profile, decorate your account with free reign, and you could contact virtually anyone else with an account and interact through games, more chats, or pictures.

    I think sites like Piczo, Xanga, and MySpace sparked a sort of cultural realization for how much people desired to be in constant communication. Through online social sites, people were able to explore another side of their social life talking to their friends via technology. Because of this, social media continually evolved from one site to another. First MySpace was the big thing, then came Facebook, and now it seems that Instagram is taking a front-running in popularity with millennials. Over all, the biggest aspect of the site, and most sites, was being able to chat and stay up-to-date on the life of friends, family, celebrities, or maybe even strangers. The ability to choose friends and followers seems to continually influence current sites with closed profiles, only open to those who are accepted by the account owner. I believe this gives us a sense of ownership and possibly false privacy, and we feel comfortable posting things because we know we are the ones who approved its viewership.

    Lastly, this article was intriguing to read and learn more about the history of social media. Even as some considered letters a form of social media, I think the author was correct in saying that nowadays, we focus on social media being primarily the online access to social living. It seems as if Instant Messaging and blogs fit right into the category of social media. Why? Well, firstly, instant messaging offers people a way of quick communication with another person through a username online. This, though a simple form, seems to easily be considered a path of communication with others. Secondly, blogs offer a wide viewership but they also give a specific form of two-way communication through the use of comments and response by readers of the blog. The blogger is making their site available to the rest of the internet, and therefore, expects readers and some feedback for a post. It seems to me that if any site offers back and forth communication between users, it can be considered as a form of social media. Though some are public and some private, the goal is the same. Maybe people really do suffer from the “six degrees of separation” mentioned in the article.

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    1. I honestly have never heard of Piczo, mainly because MySpace was king in my school! Regardless, I like that you gave a thorough description of Piczo and let us have a better idea of what exactly Piczo was.

      I definitely agree with you that social networks fostered this collective desire to be in constant communication, especially with out generation. With the advent of more accessible data plans and, eventually, the fully-realized smartphone, we saw instant communication take off and laid much of the groundwork for social media’s presence there. The human desire to communicate is one thing; to do so instantly despite great distances only made that desire stronger.

      Here’s some questions for you, Haley:

      1. How would you describe the culture of your social network on Piczo? Example: were page designs similar? Or did everyone really take individuality to the next level?

      2. You described one feature of Piczo as having a chat room right on your page. Do you think that setting up group pages on Facebook is similar to that, or do you think Piczo did it really differently? And should this feature be brought back?

      3. Compared to MySpace, was Piczo more customizable, or less? MySpace employed HTML code, and the major thing with MySpace was being able to copy and paste code from some websites into your page settings to have a tricked out page.

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      1. Thanks for your comment, Matthew! I’ll try to provide the most helpful answers I can to your questions.
        Piczo seemed to come into my life as a pre-teen at the genesis of social media uprising. Not much had been happening on the internet around this point, especially to a group of middle school girls. The beauty of piczo to glitter-enthused 13 year old girls was that we could decorate with virtually any picture on the web by setting it as a background. Everyone took their page and made it into something that matched their personality. I remember vividly changing my color scheme, fonts, and picture background depending on the latest trends or my favorite color of the day. Page lay-outs were fairly similar as most people chose the same type of things to add to their pages such as chat boxes, picture boxes, bio’s, and more. I think as the chat room progressed with my “friend group” at school, we found it to take the void of what we would now do over text. It didn’t resemble Facebook Group pages, it was simply like instant messanger with anyone able to join that was on your page. It served no specific purpose other than multi-person communication. There was a feature to send anonymous comments, which spiraled downward fast when people began commenting with no filter (much like people do now..). I don’t believe it’s a feature we desperately need back in our social media realm, especially with our ability to facebook chat, group text, and more.
        Lastly, because I never actually had a MySpace, it is difficult for me to know exactly how customizable it was. I think it was customizable in different ways, but I’m not exactly sure how to blueprint that for you.
        Again, thank you for your questions and your feedback.

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      2. I have never heard of Piczo but I am really not educated on social media. I only have a Facebook, instgram. and pinterest. I had a twitter at one point but I never have been one that has liked to update statues or share my feelings so I don’t use my twitter. I really enjoy my other networks because of sharing pictures and connecting with friends in that way.
        Is Piczo one that shares videos and pictures like Facebook or does it do more of status updates and newsfeed like blogs and twitter?

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    2. Haley, I was not familiar with Piczo at all. I’ll have to do my research on that one!

      I agree that blogs definitely opened up communication in a new way. People were open to share personal thoughts and feelings online in a way they didn’t have before. It’s interesting that you pointed out about people sharing things online. I think many people don’t think twice now about sharing personal details online but when social media and online communication first started everyone was a bit more skeptical. But now the technology is even greater to monitor online conversations. Facebook can target you with words used in status updates and online searches. The privacy concern has morphed a bit from people to businesses being able to monitor. Did anyone think when blogs and online communication first started that the capabilities to target people on social media would exist as it does today?

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      1. Lauren, yes it was a very small social media site. My mom said I couldn’t get a Facebook, so I had to find the next best thing at the time to socialize. At least, I thought I did.
        Anyway, I agree that the capability of technology tracking has revolutionized marketing and business advertising. The introduction of “cookies” that allows the website to see where else I’ve searched. It’s crazy to see the constant ads on Facebook about something I googled the day before. It seems privacy is no concern at all as many businesses seek to make profit in any way possible.

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  3. The first social media that I ever joined was YouTube. At the time, I wanted make silly videos, build a following, and strive for ‘Internet fame’. This was around 2010, so I must have been about 13. I had fun making all of those films and cultivated a knack for creating videos – a hobby that led me into photography.

    I think the ability to connect to other people is an aspect from some of the earlier sites that has stuck around – which is an attribute that basically all social media possess. Another feature would be the messaging and how instantaneous it was (and still is today). I think we definitely see the instantaneous communication characterized today in apps like snapchat, because connectivity is definitely something people crave.

    Concerning the article, I think it would be silly to not mention the very first forms of communication on the Internet, because they were the building blocks for the sites we have now. Albeit, at conception they weren’t always the most efficient – even Facebook was once “Thefacebook.com” and lacked hundreds of features that it has today. But in the past 10 – 15 years, we have seen an evolution of sorts in technology – such as smartphones, advances in code, cultural shifts and research on trends that has helped to optimize these platforms for the greatest user experience (and the most ad revenue). It only makes sense to reflect on what these sites used to be in order to gain a greater understanding on how they have adapted.

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    1. Solid commentary, Alex. You characterized the instant nature of social networking, which is really another core foundation of what it means to be connected to other people in this Internet-based age. You mentioned that early on, most social networks weren’t as efficient as they are today. This is kind of a point of contention for me; to go back to your example with Facebook, the user interface (or UI in tech-talk) has changed a lot and users were relatively slow to adapt since it was so different. Yes, I still remember when Facebook introduced the Timeline, and I still hate it to this day.

      That being said, YouTube is another point of conversation. You mentioned that you used to have a YouTube account for funny videos and that really started your love of photography. I have three questions for you:

      1. Do you think, based off of your personal experience, that social networking has a way of sparking some kind of action in a person’s life (like how YouTube sparked your love of photography)?

      2. What are your thoughts on YouTube’s updated interface and the YouTube Red subscription service?

      3. A lot of content producers on YouTube post different kinds of content, from opinion pieces to tech reviews to songs that go viral in mere hours (like “Chocolate Rain” and “Call Me Maybe”). Some of the content just seems the same at times, however. What do you think YouTubers can do to make their specific show stand out?

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      1. Matthew! I just now realized that you had sent this. Here are my responses:

        1. I certainly think that any type of media outlet involved with producing content forms new creative habits – as evidenced in my own life. Seeing other people around the world make clever videos certainly sparks one’s own confidence to create.

        2. I think YouTube was fun for a breif moment. And since it has changed many of it’s features (the most prominent one that comes to my head is when they required Google+ accounts) the site itself has become an unnatractive outlet for many. After they changed the layout and navigation tools, it became very difficult for users to find other users – it created a content monopoly in a sense – allowing only the already well established producers to rise in statistics. I believe that RED will be yet another extension of the content monopoly.

        3. I would agree with you – I think a lot of YouTube content these days can look extremely similar.

        Although I’m afraid I haven’t been on YouTube in such a long time and I feel like a poor source to answer your question in full!

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    2. Alex, it’s a cool story how YouTube led you to discovering a new hobby. I completely agree the ability and desire to connect is what drives social media.

      Developing technology has definitely driven social media. I’ll admit I joined Facebook pre smart phone when it was thefacebook.com and only for college students. Now the app updates are just as important if not more important than how it looks on desktop.

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    3. Nice comment Alex. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that was really drawn to YouTube. It’s extremely interesting to see that making videos led you to photography. It makes me wonder if I would have leaned toward photography if I had ever actually made any videos. Because I didn’t, I have always felt that urge to become a creator rather than a consumer.

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    4. This is interesting Alex that your first social media was YouTube, I still don’t really use Youtube as far as posting videos and such, but I do enjoy watching other people. I would be interested in knowing what measures you took to become ‘famous’ and how did you measure your success, and why was that a goal that you wanted to achieve?

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  4. The first social network that I used was technically either AIM or Yahoo Messenger. I was around 13 years-old and at the time, I remembered begging my parents if I could get a Facebook account but was told I wasn’t allowed to until I was in high school. Consequently, I spent a lot of time trying to sneak into my sister’s and talk to my friends. 😂

    I think the main element that all these sites share is that they exist to create connections with others, a network of individuals. Beyond this, the idea of being able to share things outside of just a conversation (like other sources of media) has stuck around. I mean think about it, if you pull up your twitter or Facebook right now your feed will be filled with links and off-site content that have been shared by someone in your network. It’s the idea of being able to engage beyond just a regular conversation, you get the opportunity to take it to a deeper level by bringing in a mix of ideas.

    I think if we go back to the definition given for social media in the beginning on the article, “the ability to use the internet to share and communicate instantly with others,” then instant messaging and blogs without a doubt fit the description. However, the author makes a good point, not everyone agrees on this definition. So if you don’t agree with this description of social media, it might not make a lot of sense to you why these type of sites have been included. Either way, these sites paved the way by creating a buzz. They engaged internet users with friends, sometimes making new friends in the process, and helped them make a connection. Users loved it, and it is no wonder they wanted to make improvements upon these platforms… creating things like Myspace, where users could instant message, share music, and much more.

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    1. Great points Lauren! I’m sure you’re not the only one to sneak and use social media!

      It’s interesting how social media has changed from just a conversation between people to links from businesses and news articles. It’s become a source of information as much as anything now.

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    2. It’s safe to say AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger (later Windows Live Messenger) were our collective baby steps into social networking! Thanks for the honesty about Facebook and sneaking around your parents; we need some funny stories on here!

      I’m going to get a little deep here: when you finally got Facebook, did you feel relieved? Did it feel like you were finally part of the online world, or was it not that big of a deal?

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  5. My social media journey was anything but rushed. The first social media site I joined was Facebook at 14 years old. I was instantly obsessed with Picnik and updating my status to music lyrics and quotes I pretended to understand. Facebook ignited the competitive side in all of my peers as we raced to see who could get the most friends. My profile was obviously set to private and under constant surveillance by my mom, but it was definitely tempting to accept anyone that requested me to add to my number of friends. Now, we all have that burden of going through and cleaning out the “friends” whom we’ve never actually met.
    While MySpace may have been the frontier of social media profile websites, Facebook provided a place where everyday users could easily post their opinions or troubles guiltlessly for all of their friends to see, and its simplicity attracted an extraordinary amount of users. After a while the short posts turned into rants which quickly became long text that we would just scroll through. The creators of Instagram noticed Facebook users’ disinterest in lengthy word posts and created a social media site that allowed those of us who love pictures to enjoy almost nothing but that. While Instagram jumped on this opportunity, Facebook has continued to evolve into new facets creating an online world for organizations, event planning, and businesses. Like Instagram, many social media sites have taken small parts of what Facebook offers and made their mediums focus on that specific purpose.
    Twitter, for example, put a 140 character limit on posts, which forces people to get their comments out using a length that people won’t get tired of reading. These has allowed them to become one of the leading social media sites for breaking news. Another example, Pinterest, allows us to organize our desires, crafts, and life tips in boards that are easy to navigate. Facebook allows us to have our “likes,” but Pinterest is a more practical for this activity. While there were numerous social media sites before Facebook, like LinkedIn, even more have based themselves off of the social media giant.
    As for including blogs and instant messaging within the bubble of social media, media is defined as “the main means of mass communication, especially television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet.” Blogs and instant messengers were put in place to facilitate communication between people via the internet, so there is no question whether or not these two mediums should be included in the social media sector.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Ali! I completely understand the “race to get friends” and now questioning when have I actually talked to this person. Great insight on how social media has evolved with the different networks and how they developed out of aspects of previous networks.

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  6. The first social network that I joined was Facebook. At the time I think you had to be around 18 to join…I was probably 12, so I had to lie about my birthday in order to created my page! I just recently updated my birthday to the correct year a few months ago.
    In my opinion, the main element that has influenced all types of social networking sites is being able to connect and communicate with anyone at anytime from anywhere. Each social networking site has basically formed from an existing one just creating aspects slightly different hoping to appeal to certain crowds of people. Facebook took over sites like MySpace and Xanga. Once everyones moms and grandmas started using Facebook, teenagers switched to other types of networking sites. When I first got Facebook I used it as a means to post embarrassing status of saying “is single xoxo :))” or “text me..I’m bored”, or sappy song lyrics that I thought applied to my feelings at the moment. Now really the only reason I use Facebook is to post millions of pictures because everyone knows you can’t double and ESPECIALLY not triple post to Instagram. Twitter’s character limit is a blessing and a curse at times. It keeps us from having to read novels about things nobody really cares about, but it also at times is too hard to fit your thoughts into such a small amount of words causing people to have deal with grammatical errors to be able to get their point across. But, I think with each new social outlet, the creator is trying to improve from the last.
    Social media is all about communication. It’s the whole reason we use it. This is why we must include instant messaging and blogs in the same group as social media outlets. Of course blogging is 100% public like social sites are while instant messaging is a private way to communicate, but they are all steal a means of communication. Seeing that “social media” is just any form of communication and that some people even considering letter writing social media, I guess we would also include texting a form of social media as well? Interesting article!

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    1. Glad you agree about double and triple posting on Instagram. It’s amazing how unspoken rules develop on certain social media sites. Humans’ability to sense what is right and wrong without being told is an interesting gift. If only this gift transferred to more than social media.

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    2. I didn’t join Facebook until 2010, so I was 16 when I finally got on there. By that time, the age limit was down to 13 and a more restricted experience until you turned 18 (and you had to prove you really were 18 since Mark Zuckerberg really cares *that* much about your birthday). I keep seeing Xanga on here, but literally nobody I knew used it! Maybe it’s a regional thing? I also made a LOT of embarrassing status updates on Facebook (nowhere near the awfulness of middle school me, though), so I stand in solidarity with you there, Bekah.

      Here’s my question: you say that every new social media outlet tries to improve on something from the last one. What would you say Facebook was improving over, say, MySpace? What did Twitter accomplish in the microblogging sector, namely against Tumblr? (Remember that Twitter exploded in 2007 at SXSW in Austin, but also saw its full realization in 2010 during that year’s FIFA World Cup. Also, Tumblr has been around since 2007 but didn’t go truly mainstream until MTV began advertising its tumblelogs around 2013)

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    3. I’m interested to find out how many of you tonight had to fudge on a birthday to get Facebook or on social media. I completely agree social media is about communication and the need people have to communicate. It’s interesting you bring up about letter writing and texting. One article included the telegraph as an early form of social media!

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  7. The first social network that I joined was Facebook. I started using Facebook in the eighth grade with my mothers permission. My mother was not strict on much but she was not a fan of internet use. However, I proved to her that Facebook was just a great way to stay connected with all your friends. Recently, my mother gave in and got a Facebook herself in order to stay connected with my brother and I as we went of to college but also to reconnect with her high school friends and to just stay connected with friends as well. I have proven to my mom how Facebook can be a useful tool in communicated and staying connecting with friends and important people in our lives. I was a huge fan on Facebook because I enjoyed being able to communicate through wall posts, sharing of videos or posts, status, but my favorite attribute of Facebook is posting pictures. Many of my high school friends attended different schools so I love being able to see their events and photos from their schools and being able to connect with them through social media in that way. I also enjoy being able to locate all of my photos in one place.
    One major element mentioned in earlier networking sites that has influences today’s major social networks is communicating and staying in touch with friends and family trough the use of social media. The major advantage of social media is connecting with people through the internet without actually having to have a psychical interaction with someone. This has allowed millions of people to stay connected or reconnect with people they never thought they could see or hear from again. Another element of early networking sites that influenced today’s major social networks is sharing or posting other people’s photos, status, or videos that they have recently shared or created as well. This concept created the retweet or the repost that so many people talk about today.
    I think that instant messaging and blogs should be included when talking about the history of social media because the concept of social media is to stay connected and to communicate with other people. I believe that instant message is the main concept of social media because we are constantly sending comments or posts to one another; therefore, leaving instant messages. I also believe that another form of instant messaging is communicating with others and we are constantly instant messaging on social media through messages, photo comments, repost, tweets, etc. I believe that blogs should also be included when talking about the history of social media because blogs allow for communication and information to be shared which is another important aspect of social media. Social media can be used for fun, but it can also be educational as well.

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    1. Your mentioning of why your mom joined Facebook is a perfect example of why the Facebook users’ demographic has changed so drastically. What began as a popular trend for young teenagers has transformed into a social network of majorly middle-aged users.

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    2. I’m surprised your mom wasn’t as strict as some of our moms were, but it’s still refreshing nonetheless to get that perspective! You say that social networking is more or less of a realization of instant messaging taken to a different level, yet some aspects aren’t instant, like someone replying to a post or liking it. Here’s my question for you: how do Facebook and other social networking sites make up for that? Do push notifications help it, or is it too annoying at times?

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    3. It is interesting how Facebook has changed so much into the network for moms and even grandmas (which is great for advertisers!). I actually encouraged my mom to get a Facebook after I received messages from several of her old high school and college friends trying to get in touch with her. Facebook has been an incredible tool for staying connected with people you don’t get to see anymore!

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  8. The first social network that I joined happened to be Facebook. I was extremely young when sites like AOL and MySpace launched. In fact, I was so young that I had to lie about my age when I signed up. Even though I had an account, I lost interest very quickly until I discovered YouTube. YouTube was a big deal for me because it was the culmination of various mediums: sound, video, and text in the form of comments. It was a sight designated as a place for content creators to receive feedback or just post silly videos. I thought it was cool how one minute you could be watching silly cat videos and then in a few clicks you were watching political commentary on the upcoming election.

    One element I see in older social media that is observable today is that every social media site allows the expression of feedback. There is always a comment section. It allows users to give their honest opinion about the content being presented and allows the creator to use the feedback to generate better posts. If there were no way to express your opinion about a post, then posts in general would be more lackluster.

    Instant Messaging and blogs should be included when we talk about social media because they were the forerunners to online communication. In its adolescence, the Internet was an archive of information that didn’t encourage users to communicate with one another. The machine was built so that man could use it as a virtual library containing infinite amounts of information. But what that archive did not have was the ability to generate new ideas and improve upon old ones. Without blogs and forums and messaging, the Internet would be like a bookshelf. But with the improvements that we get from blogs and messaging services, the Internet has no perfect analogy. The best way to describe it would be like saying it’s a virtual park, where scholars and cynics and innovators all coalesce to share their old history and forge a new one.

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    1. You said that you got a lot of interest in YouTube, which is definitely a different take. Are you still as drawn to YouTube as you are now? Do you still get that same entertainment value?

      Personally, I’m nonplussed as it is with Facebook. Yeah, I’ve updated a few times or shared the occasional post, but I find that as the Minion memes cranked out and everyone started cranking out political image macros, I took a step back from Facebook; in a way, it seems like we avoid Facebook because people started to just not care anymore (having that one racist relative drop swear words like they’re a B-2 bomber, the one person from high school you friended that still can’t spell to save their life…I could go on with the character tropes, but I think you get my point). I tend to hang around Twitter more, but even that is quickly getting polluted with some of the content we’ve seen on Facebook we’ve ran so far from. If I get interest in them again (more than likely at this point) I may get back to using Ello and Medium.

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      1. I would say that I’m still just as drawn to YouTube as I once was, but my tastes have changed. I love watching short films and commentary on literature, philosophy, and film. I used to use the site as a way to just watch something that could make me laugh, but now I use it to learn new things and build upon previous knowledge.

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    2. Love this quote Chuck! – Without blogs and forums and messaging, the Internet would be like a bookshelf.

      Social media is about that two-way conversation. It’s changed the Internet to be ever-evolving to fit the communication needs we have. Think about how many web pages now have places for comments or have social media incorporated into them.

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    3. Chuck, being some of the youngest in our class, do you think that has influenced our experiences with social media verse those of the juniors and seniors?

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      1. I definitely do. We grew up when the Internet was nearing adolescence. Even though we didn’t have to fiddle with technology that seems archaic, it also means that we aren’t able to have some of the experiences our classmates had.

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  9. The first social media that I made my mark on was Facebook. Like many others, I was too young to use it, around 12 years old, so I used all my moms information (LOL). I was not aloud to log on with out my mom around, and she knew my password, and could log in at her leisure. I was the only one of my friends who never had a MySpace, and by the time Facebook came out, I couldn’t stand to be the only one left out. So I agreed to the Terms & Conditions of not only Facebook, but of my mom.
    The older elements that have influenced the social medias that are popular today, in my view, are commenting, posting (pictures and statuses), and private messaging. Social medias are solely based to keep people connected. Commenting and posting statuses have upgraded throughout the years, thus the posting of pictures; a more advanced way to say who you’re with, what you’re doing, where you are, etc. Private messaging has evolved from private chat rooms in single forums, to message boards (also in single forums), to being a key element in every social media to hit the net. These 3 elements are key to the successful social media formula.
    Instant messaging and blogs, though categorized with everyday social media, has it’s own quirk, if you will. Instant messaging started out on single forums, such as Yahoo and AOL. When using the term “instant messaging” it truly meant to send the message instantly, not necessarily to be read instantly or to receive a response instantly (unless, by the off-chance, you and the person you were messaging were on the forum at the same exact time, having the same connection to the internet). Blogs are different entirely. These little suckers kept you “connected” but aren’t nearly as fast-paced as every other social forum. Blogs are posted to at least twice weekly if you’re lucky. If you are a religious reader of a blog post that updated more than biweekly, then I would have to argue that the blogger has no job, and lives in their parents basement, because no one has that kind of time in this life. Instant Messaging and Blogs are being a “thing of the past”, if you will, because they seem so disconnected. Instant Messaging is somewhat being replaced with commenting (it has a better fighting chance than blogging at staying relevant), and blogging is being replaced with posting and sharing. I know many people who think Facebook is a blog forum, and I have to bite my tongue when I want to comment and tell them to take their novel elsewhere. It’s not that they are just simply disappearing, because both of these are still, in a sense, relevant to all ages all over the world. They are simply just being replaced, as many things are in today’s society.

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    1. “So I agreed to the Terms & Conditions of not only Facebook, but of my mom.” Well if that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is.

      You take a different approach with instant messengers and blogs as a true form of social networking. Let’s talk about that. I definitely agree with you on blogs not being as instant; it’s not easy keeping your blog updated and requires dedication. With instant messaging, my question is this: was the fact it wasn’t as “mass” as Facebook and Twitter are today what disqualifies instant messengers, or is it something else?

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      1. Thanks for your reply Matthew! Instant messaging, in my perspective, has always been a part to a whole. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Groupme, even Pinterest, has a form of Direct, or private, messaging. Even earlier, messagers were just an accessory to Yahoo.com or AOL.com.

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    2. You brought out some great points. I agree that instant messaging is definitely not what it once was. I think blogs still have their place today, but they look differently from what they once were. It’s not all about ranting and sharing personal feelings anymore. You have people who are actually professional bloggers and get paid to promote certain products or companies.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My first exposure to social media was through Yahoo Messenger when I was around 12. You could choose from preset avatars or upload your own photo as a profile picture, and you had the option to change the color scheme of the chat box. I loved changing the color and font of the text I sent and using all kinds of ridiculous (and probably embarrassing) emoticons. Before we all had cell phones, all of my friends used it to talk when we weren’t at school, and I remember logging on as soon as I got home every day to see who was online and available to chat.

    For me, the coolest part of an instant messenger was the “instant” element. I would email friends every now and then back when that was cool, but there was no guarantee that they would see an email right away. On an IM service, you could see who was online, you would receive a notification when you got a new message and you could even see if whoever you were chatting with was typing a new message. The instancy of instant messengers has carried over into today’s social media–your phone can get notifications every time anyone interacts with you on any social media platform and we’re constantly communicating back and forth through social media.

    It’s right for blogs and instant messengers to be included in the history of social media for this very reason–the very center of many social networks today is the instantaneous nature of interaction within them. Blogs opened the door for the Internet to become a space where people shared opinions and made their profiles their own, and instant messenger services made communication faster. Many of the defining features of today’s social media world were first introduced through blogs, instant messengers and other early online communities.

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    1. I didn’t use Yahoo Messenger as much since most of my friends used MSN, but I remembered it was just as fun as MSN!

      I’m glad that you mentioned notifications as a form of instancy, so I have to ask: do notifications at our age help us more, or are they more of a nuisance? Some of my friends (myself included) take time in the week to disconnect and shut off the notifications so we don’t hear constant notification dings on our phones, so I’d like your insight on notifications!

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    2. I was a Yahoo Messenger user and definitely enjoyed the customized fonts. It was the best way to reach friends quickly online and multiple friends at once. I feel like instant messaging was a bit the precursor to texting and group texts.

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    3. Katie, nice commentary! I love that you mentioned the avatars on Yahoo! Messenger. I had totally forgotten about creating those funny little characters. I think we would all be embarrassed to go back and see how we used to talk on these sites, or even worse our screen-names from back in the day. I had a friend who was “horseluver93,” I can’t laugh though seeing that mine was “awwwsnap101.” 😂

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  11. My first experience with social media was through Facebook. I was 13 and I remember having to lie about my age in order to get an account. My parents did not want me to have one so I had to make it secretly. My family also had a MSN messenger, but we only used it to communicate with my dad while he was deployed. Most of my friends had a different messenger site that they used.

    I think that social media gave people a way to communicate there in the moment instead of writing letters or calling each other. You were able to post and share pictures right after an event instead of sharing the photos the next time you got together with someone. Ultimately all these sites are so that families can stay in touch with each other if they are states apart or live in different countries. Social media allows these families to give updates through Facebook or post pictures to Instagram for others to see.

    I think that blogs and instant messengers should be included with the history of social media. The author states that many people define it as the ability to use the internet to share and communicate instantly with others, which is exactly what blogs and instant messengers are. I think that anything that is on the internet or you are able to do through your phone should be considered social media. Blogs are for people who want to share things that they have learned or something that happened that day in their life. Instant messengers give people the opportunity to immediately communicate with each other no matter where they are. These two things together have many of the features that many social media accounts have today.

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    1. Secret Facebook? Okay, I’m here for stories about sneaking status updates when your mom wasn’t looking. Just so we can have something to giggle about.

      You say MSN Messenger was your primary way to talk with your dad when he was deployed. What was it like coordinating your talk times with him? What features did you use to really enhance how you used MSN Messenger?

      I’m glad that you shared that you used Messenger to keep in touch with your dad while he served our country, Julianna. I know that a lot of military families didn’t have that connection, so it’s really refreshing to see that you had that!

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    2. Social media has definitely allowed people to keep in touch like never before. I have family living in Colorado and Nebraska I haven’t seen in several years. However, I know just what they are up to and what their kids look like thanks to Facebook. It’s been a great tool for families who live far apart!

      I remember when I first came to OBU, instant messaging was a great way for me to keep in touch with my immediate family. Glad that helped you talk to your dad!

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    3. Julianna, I love that you made the comment about using MSN messenger to talk to your dad while he was deployed. It think a lot of times we view social media as a fun tool and forget that it really does bring a lot of good to certain situations. It’s great to hear how social media has positively impacted you and your family!

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    4. Great feedback Julianna! I agree with your statement about IMs giving people the opportunity to immediately communicate with anyone. This really was a gateway bridge to communicating outside of our means, and really developing relationships outside of our geographical area.

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  12. I first joined a social network when I was in middle school. It was called Xanga and it was a way for me to post online in a blog format with icons and pictures. It was a great way for me to communicate with friends online and keep up with what they were doing on a daily basis.

    When reading about the elements from earlier networking sites I believe that many elements influenced the social media we have today. As far as communication goes, it seems as if social networking sites from the very beginning have strived to provide ways for people to stay in contact with one another. Social media has also been a way for people to add photos and make comments on others photos, allowing for a more personal visual connection.

    I think that instant messaging and blogs should be included when discussing the history of social media because they are important forms of online communication. Instant messaging seems to me like it was the first form of text messaging, which makes it incredibly important history to a generation that thrives off of messages popping up on a phone screen. Blogs are also important because they allow people to post on any given subject, and are available for people to read, comment on, and share. This is another form of communication that is important to the history of social media. Blogs can be shared on other networking sites such as facebook, twitter, etc.

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    1. I have never hear of Xanga before. I think its very interesting how many different social networking sites there are and the different things we are allowed to do on each site. I also think its interesting how each social networking site is similar in the fact we are communicating with friends and sharing information whether it is in picture, word, or blog form.

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    2. Okay, I keep hearing about Xanga, so I have to ask if you can still access yours? Maybe show off your old page? I’d love to see the hauntings of middle school Emily! So since Zanga is sort of a blog, how does it compare to WordPress, LiveJournal, or Tumblr (whichever you’ve experienced after Xanga)? What did Xanga do better, and where did the blog site of your choice excel?

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    3. Yes, I definitely had a Xanga! That peaked while I was at Ouachita. Many of my friends had Xanga, which just served as a journal of sorts for us.

      I completely agree that instant messaging was an early form of texting.

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  13. The first social media that I joined was face book. The year was 2008 I was in the 8th grade and I was 14 years old. I didn’t really understand what it was a first but all my friends were doing it so I decided that I would do it to which I am glad I did.

    Social media has grown more and more advanced over the years from the simple instant messaging a blogging in the early days to the sites that run our lives and can’t go but a few hours without checking. In the early stages of social media all platforms had one common goal, to connect people online. Instant messaging or Direct messaging is one of the earliest forms of social media and is still included in almost all social media today. blogging is another early form of social media that allowed one to inform many people at one time there opinion of various topics, what has been happening in their life and many other things. This informant aspect of blogging is still a huge part of social media today.

    Instant messaging and blogging should be included in the list of social media because they together make up what social media is. Social media by breaking down the definition of the two words can be defined as: being of or relating to society or organizations by means of mass communication. Which is what instant messaging and blogging are, they are simple means of communicating with friends and family through the internet. Face Book twitter and and all of today’s social media are all just fancy versions of the basis of these two originals.

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    1. I’m definitely with you on how we need to include instant messaging as a form of social media, Miles. In fact, it’s a sentiment I think we all can agree on! That being said, some aspects also aren’t part of the social media we know today. What do you think didn’t make the cut in today’s social networks?

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    2. I agree Miles, at the heart of all social media is connecting people online. That’s still the ultimate goal. It definitely looks different than it did at first, but social media keeps innovating to accommodate new needs and wishes of the public.

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    3. Nice commentary Miles. I really like how you find meaning in what social media is so simply. I think people often try to read in to things but your definition of social media is by the book.

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  14. The First social media I joined was MySpace. And the only reason I joined that was because all of my friends were doing it and my older sisters had joined, so I was basically following a trend. Now I joined MySpace at the at of 11 and then lied about my age, as did all of the other young kids my age did to make an account. I remember changing the background on it and make it seem like I was the cool kid, who knew how to do all the cool things on the site. When in reality I was just googling how to do it. But after that came AOL, and Facebook. Never really got into all the new hip things that are around today.

    Older social media made companies realize that if you can get a ton of people together on one site you could advertise a product very well. Today we see that on Facebook all the time, even the little iPhone games we play, companies advertising their product. The old social media sites made the new sites go ” hey we can get a ton of people on one site. Then make companies pay us to get their name on our site.” It was a way to make money, because the old sites really didn’t have as much as the newer sites do. This is a way to make money, because this country is money hungry and people will do anything to get their hands on some if it is through the Internet and not out in a field.

    We have to consider the AOL types in the history of social media because even today we still have those AOL type items on the social media sites. Like Facebook, you can still chat with someone instantly through the little chat pull up menu and even in Twitter you can message some or tag them into something and they still can reply back. AOL is still being used today through many different types of platforms without being known. The old stuff that many people have done away with and are on the new things just are more advanced versions of that old media site.

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  15. The first social media I dealt with was AOL Messenger. I was in 6th grade when I first got involved. Everyday after school, I would get home and message with my friends back and forth. When I was in seventh grade, my friends and I created a MySpace account for myself without my parents’ permission. They never found out about it, but I still felt pretty bad about keeping it a secret from them.

    Six Degrees, MySpace, and LinkedIn were all great building blocks for Facebook and other social media sites. Facebook just figured out a way to get people what they wanted in a different format. Instagram then took the ideas of sharing photos and ran with it. Twitter used the status update as a way to get words out faster and more times. All of these sites use a lot of the same elements because ultimately they are all doing one thing: getting people to connect with other people.

    Instant messaging and blogging are important when speaking about the history of social media because those two things are extremely ingrained into social mediums today. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have messaging communication applications that you can use to contact other people. Each of those mediums also have some form of creating posts so that you can get what you want to say to people out into the world. Blogging still lives today in each of those outlets. In order to understand where we are going with social media, we need to know where we came from and what works and what does not work.

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  16. While most kids in our generation had their social media experience jumpstarted early,mine was a little stunted. I went to camp in Pennsylvania in middle school and had no way to keep in touch with all my new friends. So in 8th grade I snuck behind my parent’s backs one night, got on the computer and made a Facebook.

    As far as social media we have today relating to the older sites, I think they’re pretty much the same sites, just vastly improved upon. They all still have the same bones as the pre-2000 sites: messaging, friend groups, calendars etc. What they’ve done is made them easier to use, more efficient and more addicting.

    IM’s and blogs should be included because they created the informational craze of today. We have to be in contact with everyone during every second of the day. We need to observe and know what they’re doing at any moment for no other reason other than it’s what we know to do. Since they started all of that I think their importance is incredibly relevant in the history of social media.

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  17. The first social network that I was able to join was Yahoo Messenger. I can’t remember how old I was but it had to be around the age of 12-13. I remember the excitement that I felt when I was able to get it because this was around the time that MySpace was the hot topic, but my parents wouldn’t allow me to get it because they figured I could possibly be exposed to too much.Yahoo Messenger allowed me to chat with my friends without having to physically be on the telephone with them. Around this time, I had my own telephone line (which you were cool in my town if you had one of your own), but for whatever reason it was something about talking via messenger on the internet that was everything and more! I can even remember thinking that being able to send the ’emoji’ faces to the person you were chatting with was the best invention ever! Oh, little did we know how technology would really evolve! Several months of my parents monitoring my messenger profile, I still wasn’t able to get MySpace, but they did allow me to get Facebook (how ironic). I then realized exactly how much magnitude Facebook had over measly Messenger. We were able to not only update statuses, upload pictures, but we could also privately or publicly message our friends! I can remember coming in from school and going directly our desktop computer and wanting to sit in front of it for hours, and even trying to sneak on it after hours!

    As time has progressed and technology is becoming the new everything, the prior works like Messenger and MySpace played major parts in growing the social media community. When you look over all of the social networks that there are now like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, all of these took bites and pieces from one another to be another step towards making the step to making the social medium even better. Most if not all of the social networks have a direct message to where you can send that particular person or multiple persons a message, a lot like how Yahoo Messenger worked. We have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can post pictures. I feel as if all social networks interlock with one another in some form or fashion.

    Instant messaging and blogging obviously play a huge part in the history of social media because it allows everyone to follow up on things that are going on with one another. Like when people upload statuses or tweets, it’s what the audiences yearn for. We want to know what people are thinking, their opinions, not so much their feelings (which we still get a lot of), but it’s what seems to draw our attention to these networks. It’s definitely not all about the pictures.

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