I wanted to write a rant about social media and everything that’s wrong with it. I found that I deviated into topics and subtopics and really didn’t manage to make a poignant point. Now, I saw a comment on Facebook that really pretty covers it all. Not totally, but good enough:
I may sound like a hipster by saying: “I have been using social media before it even was named that way”. Well, I also could sound arrogant, but you should be used to that by now. When “blogging” didn’t exists, we nerds had our own webpages that we kept updated… or not… They were rarely dynamic and were basically “fuck, yeah, I have a website” websites. You can’t call those “social media” yet. In a sense, it’s ironic that you are reading this on a self-hosted dynamic website.
What we now call “social media” emerged in a certain form on a community-based news website called slashdot.org. It’s a nerd hangout, so if you haven’t heard of it (but if you read this, you most likely have) don’t worry. Somewhere before 2001, they introduced a concept called friend/foe. You could mark users with a little “pill” whether you liked them or not. I think this was a first necessary step. The second step, may have been introduced at the same time, or may not. I simply don’t remember. What I do know, is that by autumn 2001, slashdot.org had a featured called “Journals”. Basically, that’s what we call “blogs” today. When you wrote something, the people who marked you as a friend got notified. It was an instant soapbox! I could talk about the world, tech and others worries and I have! What was wonderful was that people actually read it and they could reply! Imagine that!
For me that was the “first” social network. You had all the key ingredients: basic publishing and a friend/foe based network. I’m not saying slashdot.org was the first. It may well have been, but I don’t know. What I do know is that it was the first “social network” I was exposed to, and I used it a lot. slashdot.org didn’t evolve much past what they made in 2001, at least not from the perspective I have as a user.
All current social networks have these basic properties:
- Ability link users together
- Ability to publish for each user
- Ability for other users to interact with published items
- Basic notifications between users to be able to keep track of interactions
Most of my contacts left slashdot.org, or they don’t post any more. I rarely post there myself. Other social networks have taken over, with an audience that is much less technical.
These slashdot.org users often are in my “modern” social networks, but -apart from a few exceptions- I don’t know who is who due to the usage of real life names. In a sense, I really preferred the handle-only identification. To many of them, I am still “jawtheshark” (or “jts” in short), but by now many call me simply “Jorg”. I bet most don’t even know how to pronounce that…
What’s my point? I have none, but I wanted to give this background information before going head first into a rant about how people fail to handle social networks of today.