My History With Social Networking

I didn't exactly sit down tonight to write a post about my history with social networking.  I simply wanted to write about today's Blog Every Day in May prompt, "tell us about your favorite social media channel and why," and I apparently got really wordy and rambly.  I blame the distraction on being sleepy.  Read the first paragraph, and let me sum up the rest for you.  I love Facebook because I can still connect with my friends and family there without too much noise from advertising/marketing, and the format is uniform enough that I can scan past the crap 'like and share' posts.  I used to love Twitter, but it got too markety for my taste, and please, please, please just post pictures you've taken to your Instagram stream; leave the crappy quotes to Tumblr.  I want my social media to actually be social and for it to grow organically, not be a platform for advertising, marketing, or crap. #hashtagsareawesome  And Pinterest, I will heart you for forever.

It all started for me back in 1999 with a little website called Bolt.  Don't bother trying to sign up for an account, it doesn't exist anymore.  This social networking site was way ahead of it's time (I read on it's Wiki page that it was first launched in 1996).  It was MySpace before MySpace existed.  My parents didn't get the internet until after I moved out, so I was a little behind on things like email and chat rooms (ahhhh, the internet of the '90's), but I jumped right into the Bolt community.  It was mesmerizing:  chat rooms, message boards, blogs, and e-cards, oh my!  I was hooked.....for about 3 months, but I still didn't quite get it, and I didn't have much to say anything to say.  I wasn't connected to anyone I knew in real life (I kept telling friends about it, but they either didn't have the internet or were like, we see you in the real world, what would we do online?), and I wasn't really meeting anyone new online so it was fairly easy to walk away from.  Bolt users couldn't upload their own photos; everything was text based and it made the site feel very anonymous and ambiguous.  It just wasn't personable enough.

Fast forward to 2004 and MySpace.  I wasn't the first person I knew on MySpace, but I was definitely one of the first, and I quickly started collecting friends.  At first, most of my "friends" were people I'd never met, but having pictures to look at made these "friends" seem much more real than on Bolt.  Soon more of my real life friends were joining and I loved being able to stay connected to friends and family who weren't close by.  I loved looking through photo albums and leaving comments on friend's pages.  I even loved looking at the way everyone could customize their pages.  I would listen to music and even discovered several bands via MySpace.  I even utilized the blog feature to write my first ever blog posts (I wonder what happened to those gems).  Love doesn't even cover how I felt about MySpace.  It was my happy place.  I knew people had blogs (and I had even heard of LiveJournal), but nobody I knew had a blog, and back then most blogs were still text based online diary type things -- no pictures, no tutorials, no fashion posts.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out why anyone would read blogs when there was MySpace.  But then more and more people were signing up for accounts, and more and more people were on my friends list, and the place just got cluttered.  Too many flashing .gifs, too many glitter graphics, too much bad web design, too much junk.  I wanted to actually communicate with my friends and family, and with all the crap on everyone's page it was just too much of a headache; I didn't want to see a .gif of a goat head-butting someone, I actually wanted to talk to you.  I was no longer connecting with people and it wasn't fun anymore.

I signed up for Facebook in 2006, not long after accounts were available to anyone and not just students.  It was cleaner, calmer, and not as noisy as MySpace.  Not many of my friends had made the switch to Facebook yet, and I didn't really like it all that much.  After all the visual noise of MySpace, Facebook seemed dull.  I would play some games on Facebook, and looked up a few of my friends, but I decided not to collect friends the way I had on MySpace.  I got used to the uniform look of everyone's Facebook pages and became a total convert.  It was so much easier to find information on someone's page and to actually communicate with them.  I really liked the newsfeed; I could see what everyone was up to and have conversations about it!!!  Facebook quickly became my favorite social networking site, and still is.  I'm disappointed at how junked up the newsfeed has become, but since it's still so uniform, I find it easier to scan past the crap and actually read what someone has written instead of a picture they've 'liked to show that cancer is evil' (I've been guilty of this, too, but I've got my liking under control now--I think).  I love being able to have a page for my blog that is separate from my personal profile, too.  Almost 7 years in and I still find Facebook relevant, useful, and an easy way to connect to my friends and family.

I joined Twitter in 2008 after a friend sent me an invitation.  I'd never heard of Twitter and had no idea what a Tweet was.  At first I really didn't get it.  I just type whatever I'm doing?  I can only read what someone else is doing?  I only have 140 characters to say what's on my mind?  That's weird.  I guess I'll give it a try.  My first Tweet, "ummm....it's time to study."  There were only thousands of users instead of the millions of users today, and only a small number of my friends had accounts.  After just a couple of Tweets and I was hooked!!!  It quickly became my number one social networking site.  I jumped right in.  I followed friends, strangers, celebrities, products, stuffed animals, real animals; I followed anyone and anything, and I Tweeted my butt off.  The instant gratification of real time updates was like crack for me.  You mean I get to know what Jonathan from New Kids on the Block is up to at this very moment?!!?  I would respond to people; I would chime right in on conversations; I would real time Tweet during events; I even Tweeted my way through a hurricane so friends and family would know we were safe.  I was micro-blogging with the best of them.  And then it just got to be too much.  There were too many people to follow, and they weren't saying anything.  It was just one big marketing/advertising jumble.  I enjoyed reading about the minutiae of people's lives, not being directed to someone's website so they could try to sell me something.  I went from September 2011-January 2013 without Tweeting once.  I'm trying to get back into it, but it feels like one big #marketing/RTmess.  I do love a good #hashtag, though.

Instagram stole my heart a couple of years ago, but I didn't view it as a social networking place (even though I first heard of it via a blogger).  I thought of it as an easier to use Hipstamatic.  In fact, I was hesitant to use Instagram at first because I didn't want strangers seeing all of my pictures.  I think I had reached my social networking limit between Facebook and Twitter, and I just wanted to take pretty pictures.  I slowly started following my friends as they joined, but I didn't have any desire to follow any brands or any random people.  My goal with Instagram has never been to gain followers.  I was all about Instagram until people stopped posting pictures they'd taken and started posting text based quotes and sayings.  That's not at all what I want in my feed.  I follow people so I can see what they're doing, not to be bombed by some crappy quote about what real friendship/relationships/a good man/pain/loneliness is.  I've started following some bloggers on Instagram, but I don't want to be constantly marketed to, either.  Instagram is the Twitter of images, and it's starting to get junked up.

Pinterest is another site I don't think of as a social networking place.  I think of it as crack on crack with a side of crack.  I first heard of it from Young House Love, and I love wasting whole days Pinning stuff.  Well, whole days before Jack came along.  I've pinned way more stuff than I could ever accomplish, but I find Pinterest so inspiring!  Most of the ideas I have for our house have started with something I've seen there.  Pinterest had led me to several blogs I read (I know, I know, I just said I don't think of it as a social networking site).  I follow friends, I follow strangers, but I will only follow you if I think your boards are interesting.  Maybe that's why I don't think of Pinterest as a networking site; I haven't built any relationships via Pinterest.  I know plenty of people market on Pinterest, but it doesn't feel markety or all junked to me.  The most social interactions I have on Pinterest are when Dennis and I are both logged in at home and we're verbally commenting to each other about what we've pinned.

Blogging.  Blogging is my favorite way of connecting (other than Facebook).  No other social networking tool allows as much personal connection as blogging.  I prefer blogs that are actually about someone's life and interests over ones with too many link-ups/giveaways.  I want things to feel organic; not like someone has begged for or bought followers.  I guess what this entirely too long and wordy post boils down to this:  I want my social networking to be social and to feel natural, and I don't want to be marketed to; I want each kind of social format to be used how it was originally intended (no quotes in your Instagram feed, and no advertising in your Twitter stream).  Is that all too much to ask for???

2 comments

  1. Yeah...that sums it up pretty accurately. I hated when MySpace got so crazy with everyone's page having music playing and flashy glitter; it was like a bad Vegas show on my computer. And Twitter to me is "just ok." I follow a handful of people I find interesting, but I only check it like once a week. And ah...good 'ole fb...at first it was "what's the deal with this boring-ness of a 'wall'?" - but then it became nice not to have the crappy Vegas show and just be able to also talk to people. And I'm the exact same with Pinterest. I follow interesting boards, I pin things I think are cool. It's like seeing someone's bedroom but you don't feel like you necessarily need to talk to them. And unless they have something nice to say, I'm not interested in other people's comments on my pins. Okay, long comment.

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