Social networks today are ingrained in almost everything we do. They live in our pockets on smartphones, and we live a “digital life.” But before there was Facebook, Twitter, and mobile apps, there were the single celled organism of social media. You might remember them. Let’s turn back the clocks and look at how it all started and evolved from simple forums and chat rooms to the expansive networks capable connecting millions of people today. In today’s Friday5 we asked five Edelman employees to recount the social networks of yesteryear:
1. Tam Tran, Account Supervisor
I guess my first social network was Yahoo Messenger. I used it for the chat room feature to chat with anonymous friends! It was 1997 when most of Vietnam had Internet access. I still remember that I had to go to an Internet coffee shop to use Yahoo Messenger. The feeling that you can connect to a stranger and can talk about whatever you want was fun and weird. Now, I only want to chat with my friends via Facebook. There’s so many platforms to choose from now, I really only use Facebook where I can update my friends with photos, videos, and milestones. I don’t have time to chat with anonymous people anymore and it’s a bit scary to do that nowadays.
2. Konrad Palubicki, Account Executive
I hate to say it, but I joined AIM because “all of the cool kids were doing it,” and my friends were all on it. We’d get group chats going after school and had AIM running pretty much all the time. I thought it was awesome to be able to talk to my group of friends at the same time. People got pretty into it, and it was always funny to see the kind of “Away Messages” that my friends would come up with. I don’t use AIM anymore. AIM was great for what it was – a new way to chat with friends – but there are now a ton of other social networks and platforms that feature way more than just a “chat” feature.
3. Erin Shea, Vice President
In 1994 I first joined The IRC (Internet Relay Chat). The dorm I lived in at Bradley University was called “The Residence Hall of The Future” because we had DOS-based computers. We didn’t get The World Wide Web (!) until the following year. I used it because that’s really all we had. The year before, at home, my friends and I from high school would meet online at a BBS (bulletin board system) we created. I mean, seriously, there wasn’t really an Internet like we have today. I would give my right arm to still have IRC in the state it was back then. Mostly because that would mean I was still 18.
4. Phil Gomes, Senior Vice President
Prodigy—an online-service partnership between CBS, IBM and Sears—was one of my first social networks. I corresponded with guitar geeks and we would painstakingly write and trade fret diagrams in ASCII text. I learned everything from “Rock You Like A Hurricane” to the pentatonic scale that way. Members weren’t allowed to have their own ID, so I was assigned “HCXG76C.” Mom and Dad were “HCXG76A” and “HCXG76B.” I called them that for a month. (“Do I have to go to school today, HCXG76A?”). It had a graphical interface, which was awesome compared to the command-line interface that CompuServ had. Prodigy turned the expensive Packard Bell computer my dad used to run his business into “that thing that allowed Phil to connect with Iron Maiden fans in Greenwich, Connecticut.” One such fan turned me on to Black Sabbath, which Catholic school kids were not supposed to listen to.
5. Anuli Akanegbu, Enrichment Assistant Account Executive
Neopets was my first social network despite the fact that I never actually interacted with other users. I was in fifth grade, so talking to strangers online was not the best thing to do plus I was too busy taking care of my virtual pets. I joined because I thought it was cool. It was like a more built-out version of Digi Pets. It still exists, but I don’t use it anymore. I think/hope I’ve out-grown it.
What was your first social network? How has it changed?
Image credit: Tom Woodward