Communicating with loved ones across long distances has been a primary interest of humans for generations. As social beings, humanity has always depended on communication strategies to strengthen relationships. When normal face to face interactions are impossible, boring, intense, or inconvenient, humans have envisioned a brilliantly creative alternative.
That is…Social Media.
The origin of social media and digital networking extends far deeper than you might conceive. Although it seems like a new occurrence, platforms like Facebook are the outcome of many centuries of social media evolution.
The 20th Century: The Blueprint
Technology began to advance in the 20th century when society witnessed the birth of the computer and began using it commercially. Since its creation, scientists and engineers have worked vigorously to develop ways for computers to network. This eventually led to the creation of the worldwide internet.
CompuServe was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States. It was developed in the 1960’s and dominated the field during the 1980s. CompuServe remained a major influence through the mid-1990s. By the 70s technology had progressed and internet users were able to communicate in new ways. For example, the uses of UseNet, an earlier form of a virtual newsletter. There was also BBS or Bulletin Board System. BBS was one of the first ways that people used the internet to send and receive messages and upload data to share with each other. The idea of UseNet and BBS were strikingly similar to the Facebook that we know today.
In the 1980’s, home computers were becoming a much more common phenomenon and social media was evolving. There was GEnie, an online get together where people engaged in discussions and played games, however, there were no graphics and everything was text-based. Although revolutionary for its time, GEnie managed to phase out in the 90’s.
In the 1990’s, we started to see a rise of internet chat rooms. They picked up speed and remained a trendy phenomenon well into the 2000s.
The first social media platform as we understand it today was a website called Six Degrees. The site was created in 1997 and allowed users to create a profile and make friends with other accounts. Around this time the first blogging platforms started to become popular, sparking the trend of social media we know currently. Social sites that focused on public interests such as Craigslist, GeoCities, and America Online were also dominating in the 90s.
The 21st Century: A Digital Networking Society
After the invention of internet blogging, social media became popular and gained a mass following. In the early 2000s, websites such as Myspace, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Habbo, Friendster, Photobucket, YouTube, and Flicker gained popularity for allowing users to create profiles, share photos, watch videos, exchange messages, and interact in a new way then before. This created a new avenue for people to communicate and share content with one another regardless of distance and time.
By 2006, Facebook and Twitter were accessible worldwide. Today these are still among the top social media websites. We have also seen the emergence of sites like Tumblr, Spotify, Foursquare, and Pinterest to fill the voids for specific social media interests.
Modernly, there exist a wide variety of social media sites that can be linked together to allow cross-posting. This means we are able to post content in an environment that allows us to reach a maximum amount of people without giving up the closeness of person to person communication. With the prevalence of smart devices and wireless internet, it is even easier to stay connected. We can literally social network in the palm of our hands with the click of a button. We can only imagine what this means for the future of social media or what it might look like 100 years from now. An interesting thought is where we are headed in terms of online interaction and communication? Perhaps nobody knows, but for certain one thing is clear. The social network and social media platforms will exist as long as human beings are alive. We now and forever live in a digital networking society. The digital world is here.
Check out the graphics below for a visual timeline of social networks.
Written By: Chantel Brown