I was reading a post over on Web Strategies by Jeremiah entitled ‘Five Ways Web Professionals Should Be Proactive in a Recession‘ when something he said later in the post about us being social creatures started the wheels turning in my head with regards to the evolution of the internet and social media.
I grew up with a computer, we had a Tandy 486 (or maybe a 286, I can’t quite remember) when I was 7. We typed everything in DOS. My absolutely favourite game (and yes I did play this on the Tandy) was Tetris. I used the arrow keys to move the pieces into place. I’d say around 1995 or 1996 is when I remember chat rooms becoming big. My favourite chat room was called Hotel Chat, I’m not even sure it’s around anymore… I’d sit at the computer until all hours of the morning talking to people from all over the place. Internet predators didn’t even cross my mind. I just wanted to talk to people.
Towards the end of the 1990s and into the early 2000s, I remember MSN Messenger and ICQ being the big thing. Both instant messenging services, you could see when your friends were online and message them… you had some control over who was on your list of contacts and who wasn’t… and again, I’d spend my time on the computer until all hours of the morning. But I was talking to people I knew, not people I didn’t know.
These days, I’m embracing it all. There are blogs and forums and networking sites (both personal and professional), there are events, there’s Twitter, meetup groups in Calgary, conferences both online and offline, people I know well and people I’ve never met. It’s an exciting time.
I have the pleasure of interacting with a lot of folks that have the same excitement for the online social media movement that I do, and with those that just don’t quite get what the big deal is. My mom is a teacher – she also voices concerns about youth these days being so disconnected from their friends and their surroundings (here she would talk about a group of teens she saw all sitting beside one another, but none of them talking to one another because they’re all on their phones…) But the part in Jeremiah’s post that brought it all together was when he talked about us all being social beings. At the core of the internet and at social media is the need for humans to connect to someone. Social media is not a new concept (think WORD OF MOUTH), the difference between the chat rooms I was on when I was 15 and the social networking sites I’m a part of now is that better technology exists to enable conversations to take place.
I do think my mother has a valid point with youth and their use of these tools, sometimes they may not see their larger picture because of their inexperience. But I don’t think we will end up with a new generation of kids who have no social skills. Personally, I feel more accepted and connected with social media tools than without. There are more and more resources out there advocating the benefits of a corporate intranet site, or collaboration tools like SharePoint. Both of which are social media tools aimed at connecting people and ideas. In the workplace, they are tools for employee engagement. In life, they help you stay connected and know what people are upto.
At the core of social media are all of us. Our desire to belong and our need to keep in touch.