Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Social Media I

The evolution of social media can be conceived of in many ways -- in one sense, it could be said that language itself was the first social medium. Even then, considering a "social medium" to be any means of transmitting or recording language over time and space, alphabetic writing could well be seen as the earliest, followed swiftly by the development of the "letter" as a social form, which dates back to at least the seventh century BCE. The ancient Library of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria from 668 to 627, included personal letters written in cuneiform on clay tablets.

The telegraph and telephone come next in line; even if, as a recent NY Times article noted, the phone is experiencing a slow decline, it remains our oldest electronic social media. I'm old enough to remember the old "Reach out and touch someone" adverts for Ma Bell, and for a while, there was nothing more direct and personal than a phone call. Electronic mail protocols over ARPANET and its successors debuted in 1969, but did not become a common form of communication until the late 1980's; well before then, home computer users setting up BBS sites where they could post notices and download simple programs. My home town of Cleveland had a huge site, Freenet, where you could also get medical advice from doctors at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals. The WELL, a large social site based in San Francisco, was the first home of integrated mail, chatroom, and file services; perhaps not coincidentally, it was also the site of the first case of online impersonation that went to court (a man was sued by two women for pretending to be a different, older woman who was a mutual friend).

In academia, the LISTSERV protocol brought people together by field and interest, and made it possible to, in effect, send a message to hundreds of people at once in search of advice or response; LISTSERVs were often associated with archives where you could search through older messages. Early online game spaces, such as MUDs and MOOs go back to the late 1970's, and many became highly social, with tens of thousands of "inhabitants" maintaining spaces there. All of these interactions were exclusively text-based, and the only "graphics" consisted of what could be cobbled together out of ASCII characters.

It wasn't until the arrival of the commercial internet in 1993, and the WWW protocol the next year, that social media really took off; by the end of the decade, Six Degrees, LiveJournal, Blogger, and eOpinion had launched. In 2003, Second Life offered its users a virtual retake on their first lives, albeit with a graphical interface that looks primitive by today's standards; that same year, MySpace became the first modern social networking platform, and a model for Facebook two years later. With half a billion users, including everyone from the President to the Pope to Adam West, it certainly has the critical mass to change the face of human communication -- and yet, in recent years, the loss of many of its younger ("Millenial" generation) users has some people wondering whether it may someday go the way of MySpace.


  1. I think Facebook may one day go the way of Myspace, but there will always be some new platform to take its place. One thing is for certain, social media is not going anywhere. I have been boycotting all of its forms for nearly a decade now. I always felt texting, emailing, tweeting made us more disconnected. I realize now my thinking has been a little antediluvian. Embracing social media (perhaps not in all of its conceivable incarnations) actually has the power to keep us more connected. I have a letter from a great-great-grandmother dating back to the late 1800’s that I read from time to time. My maternal family emigrated from Ireland during this time. In the letter, my relative expresses the desperate need to one day see her family again. The voyage was too long and expensive back then, and she never got her wish. I think now how wonderful it would have been if computers and the internet were around then. My ancestors could emailed or spoke instead of waiting months for a letter to arrive. Even if they couldn’t be face-to-face, if it was today they could have Face Timed. Used for the proper reasons I think our current forms of social media can be a beautiful thing.

  2. I definitely agree with the last statement with the younger generations, my youngest sister, the youngest of the four siblings doesn't have a Facebook or an Instagram, a Twitter, nothing really I can't necessarily count Youtube unless she watches vloggers or else it would just be television. For her, when asked, it just seemed weird for her to have one, she didn't find it necessary to have.

    Mentioning the MUD's and MOO's I remember not too long ago, maybe a year or two that on Twitch (social media platform where you can stream yourself playing videogames to friends or anyone in general) someone posted a Pokemon game where anyone had control of what the ingame character could do. It was really interesting and I tried a few times and when an action I had done (inputted) was made ingame I felt that involved with the millions that were playing and watching along. I stopped after a few minutes but there were people who were really into the game and it ended up creating a community and the community made these random stories out of their adventure together. Social media is meant to connect people, I feel that a majority of us are just doing it wrong as we post for likes instead of wanting to start discussions like how this experiment did. What made the experiment even better was that through all the people trolling, the community finished the game.

    Another note before I forget to mention it, but social media is a great thing to happen, I feel that after the current generation is replaced by an even younger generation is when social media is going to get that young demographic it is looking for.

    Also! What happens after we die? In social media I mean, I know many people have died who had facebooks but similar to myspace and many other websites would our spot on internet sieze to exist when we are no longer "active" on the websites or if someone decides to one day close down our most used social media app.

    (I feel many might use Facebook as a place to leave for generations to come similar to a time capsule.)

  3. 031717 Social Media I
    If the letter has been the dominant form of communication and social interaction (at distance) since 668 BC, then it should be pleased with a longevity of over 2000 years. The telegraph and telephone by that reckoning were a long time coming. Since then however, the telegraph has come and gone (occasionally resurrected as a post apocalypse sci-fi device, as someone always seems to recall the “ancient” art of morse code), and the telephone, in some incarnation is still with us.
    Video chat has become common with FaceTime and Skype, especially in business where body language is an important factor in negotiating and “subtext”. I have done Voice Over sessions for Microsoft on the West Coast using Skype where the artist in my studio can see and talk to the Producer in real time by simply setting my iPad us on a folding table facing the artist. The communication happens using the mic and speaker on the device, while the audio is recorded in high definition and uploaded after the session to Dropbox (online/cloud file sharing) and can be accessed immediately by the client. No Pony Express or physical delivery delays incurred. Indeed this does make it a smaller world in many ways. Opportunity becomes global and instant. No longer do I lose by not having located my business in a major urban center like LA, NYC or Seattle. Still, face to face interactions and the connection of a warm handshake with someone is a powerful, memorable and binding interaction I miss. I guess that’s why business is still often conducted at golf courses and boutique coffee shops or cigar bars. Perhaps realistic 3D holograms will be our next jump in social media interaction.
    Note to self: when offered the digital port into my brain for fully interactive and immersive connection, just say no! This may be the “mark of the devil” prophesied in the Bible. Surely no one would abuse the ability to jack into my brain, right? Maybe I should text / FaceTime / Skype / blog / Tweet / Snapchat or email my congressman about this…
    Tony Ricci