Home Articles The History of Social Media: As Seen by Geekstorians

The History of Social Media: As Seen by Geekstorians

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People who who say social media is a fad have a profound misunderstanding of the internet and the reasons why people love it so, says Leela Cosgrove.

You probably wouldn’t know it to read me, but I’m very sentimental about beginnings and endings. I find the end of the year a fascinating time — and beginnings / ends of decades are even better (I know that some of you are sitting there just dying to talk about how the end of the decade isn’t until next year. While you might have a mathematical point — get over it. The celebration is about big numbers. 2001 was not as interesting as 2000. 2011 won’t be as interesting as 2010. Just deal with it.)

Anyway, decade turnovers and such make me reflect on directions — in particular, over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking heavily about the internet and about publishing.

Which has led me to write down my musings so that I can share my extreme cleverness with the Anthill community. Because I know you all love it. Over my next few posts I want to look at the future of stuff, as seen by me — the Great and Powerful Oz. But before we go forward, we must first go back.

I was on Facebook the other day (okay, so I’m on Facebook every day. Shut up.) and one of my friends was saying they’d attended a seminar in the US where some information marketers felt that the jury was still out on whether social media is here to stay or a passing fad.

This idea that social media is a “fad” is very confusing for an old skool geek like The Leela.

My first experience with social media was in 1994 when as a 15-year-old I logged into a chat room that was all about the occult. I was fascinated by the ability to talk to people all over the world in writing (I was 15 — poetry was preferable to phone).

This fascination continued through the ’90s (although we never had our own computer, so it was very much making friends with those few lucky people who had the internet at HOME!).

When I started my first full-time job in 1998 and actually had access to a (dial-up) internet connection in the office, I would finish work at six, log on to the internet and sometimes not leave the office until after 11pm. The majority of my time was spent in chat rooms, with some forum posting as well.

At this point the only companies that really got how useful the internet was going to be were record companies. Having discovered there were built-in communities of worldwide teens sitting around discussing music, they started logging into chat rooms and posting as hansonlover82: “Oh my God! Have you heard the new Hanson song?”

Crude, but effective. It took us a while to figure out they weren’t who they said they were and quite a few bands had their songs pushed with this early social media strategy.

In 2001, I logged onto a Science Fiction forum, which started a chain of events that led me to move to Melbourne and start my business.

Social media has been a huge part of my life since I was a teenager.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are only its latest incarnations — and these are, in their own way, fads. They’ll disappear, just like Yahoo Chat pretty much did. But to call social media a fad because some of the websites will become outdated is like saying that the internet is a fad because Internet Explorer is a piece of crap.

We didn’t all get online to read your stupid, boring brochure website and to get spammed. We got online for … a million different reasons. To play games. To talk to other people who have similar interests. To find out more about the stuff we care about. To find old school friends. To make new friends.

Fad?

No.

Social media is largely the basis for the phenomenal growth of the internet.

Ignoring social media is ignoring the internet itself, because, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the internet isn’t about web pages. It’s not about videos and ebooks and pay-per-click and SEO. It’s not even about Google.

The internet is about people and their need for community — for interaction. It’s about the need to be heard and to feel like we mean something.

Every step of the way, this is what has driven the growth of the internet. And until you figure that out, you’re wasting your time and efforts.

Leela Cosgrove is Managing Director of Business Writers Anonymous, focused on sales, marketing and business development. She is also a firewalker, has a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, a penchant for tattoos, and enjoys bands such as Rammstein, Li Bach, Marilyn Manson, Pennywise and Bad Religion.

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