During a recent conversation about the state of the social media world, I realized how long social media has actually been around for. Of course, this conversation was with a college student entering his senior year so I was really dating myself and I received a few blank stares because he didn’t know what I was talking about, but it really got my wheels turning.
When I was in high school and college, “AOL Instant Messenger” (AIM) was all of the rage. If you weren’t on AIM, you were a notch down amongst your peers. Away messages and profiles were of the utmost importance and it wasn’t uncommon to update your away message with exactly what you were doing and why you weren’t at the computer to answer their message. Little did we know that it was our first “status update.” Your friends were “buddies” and you could only talk to them when they were online.
Our first foray into what is now known as social media was “My Space.” This was the first thing, other than your own website, that you could truly make your own. You chose your favorite music, photos and background, and then decided on what to tell the world about you, your likes, dislikes, etc. You could tell everyone who viewed your profile who your top 8 friends were and their first status update was an emoticon which told people how you were feeling.
A year later came “The Facebook.” College kids nationwide started hearing about it and desperately wanted to have it at their college. To get access, students had to petition Facebook and the school had to approve it with Facebook before the student body was allowed access to it. You had to sign up with your school email; it was the only way in. It was a big deal when high school students were allowed on, but at first they couldn’t be friends with the college students. Eventually it was opened up to everyone and rather quickly took over the top spot from My Space. The first status update on Facebook consisted of “Joe is _______” and you filled in the blank with what you were doing or how you were feeling. Today, status updates are synonymous with Facebook but it’s clear they didn’t start them.
Status updates started as away messages, social networking started with your automatic friend named Tom on MySpace and you had to be part of an elite group to be a member of the The Facebook … that was our social media.