What is social media and what is its history?
Most of us probably know what social media is. Heck, it is likely that the majority of us use it on a daily basis. For those of us who might not know what social media is, or need a slight touchup on their info, social media is a type of digital tool or application that gives users the capability to be social, whether that be by letting them share their life by uploading posts on their account, by streaming live videos or by direct messaging, a type of messaging very similar to SMS messaging, but over the internet rather than cellular networks .
Social media applications normally specialize in specific areas of socializing. For example, applications like Twitter specialize in posting small amounts of text, applications like Instagram specialize in photos and videos of any length, and applications like TikTok specialize in short videos. While there are numerous social media apps that do not specialize in one particular area, such as Facebook, most are known for specific types of media . It should also be noted that social media is much more open and anyone can sign up, which causes misinformation to be quite common on the myriad of platforms that are out there .
Now for the history of social media. For the majority of human history, being social was a simple matter. You either talked to someone in person or you sent a letter. While you could argue that the action of sending letters advanced and became less and less simple throughout the years, the process has still stayed relatively the same. Whether it was a person delivering your message, a bird, or a machine, it was still letters on a page. Then computers came along, bringing email with them, and cellphones with short message service messaging, or SMS, and multimedia messaging service messaging, or MMS , not long after. Only after these inventions did social media as we know it today start to form, but that does not mean that the history of social media started such a short time ago. In truth, the history of social media started a very long time ago, in 1792 to be exact .
1792 was the year that the telegraph was invented, an invention that would exponentially increase the popularity of future social media endeavors. As a fast and generally reliable way to move short messages and news across long distances, it quickly became a very popular tool. Then, in the years 1890 and 1891 respectively, the telephone and the radio were invented, diversifying the social portfolio for many who could afford it, but the true explosion happened after computers became widespread in the latter half of the 20th century. By 1979, computer owners that used UseNet could even interact and read a virtual newsletter .
The start of the true modern social website was in 1997, with the creation of the site Six Degrees. The website was a pioneer that let users “friend” other users and create a profile. Throughout the years 2002, 2003, and 2004, five heavy hitters were released: the short-lived Friendster, professionally centered LinkedIn, emailing service Gmail, and social media applications Myspace and Facebook. Soon after that, in 2005, social video giant YouTube was released, but remained under the radar for numerous years. 2011’s Snapchat also made a huge splash on its release and resurfaced recently, becoming one of the most popular social media applications in North America .
However, since 2011 very little innovation has taken place in the social media sector. While the user interface of many apps have improved and been restructured, large changes have been quite rare. Sure, Instagram was bought by media giant Facebook and applications such as Vine have come and gone, but the format of social media has stayed generally the same. The current state of social media, misinformation and all, has shaped our generation, the way we communicate, and even the way we act. We rely on these applications and websites to complete numerous everyday tasks and keep ourselves up-to-date on daily events and news. But are we truly better off because of it? In my next research round, I will be focusing on the effects of social media on how we feel and think; our psyche. That research round will hopefully help everyone get at least a basic understanding on the psychological impacts of our social media use, which can sometimes turn into overuse, and damage us in ways you might not expect.
Image: Business Review