Whether you're a social media maven or a casual scroller, we're all influenced by today’s popular platforms. Open your phone and you’ll most likely see the glowing icons of at least three social media apps. Even more likely, you’ll open one unintentionally out of sheer habit. Nearly 68% of us use Facebook, and 74% of us log on daily. That’s a lot of liking, sharing, and tagging going down on a regular basis.
How did we get here? Not so long ago, the only way to give your friends a need-to-know status update was to open your bedroom window, and shout loud enough for them to hear about how you just cooked the perfect pancake. Things have changed since then. After looking at a few of the extinct platforms, we can begin to see social media’s influence on the way we share our lives with each other.
AIM (May 1997 - December 15, 2017)
Take yourself back to the late ‘90s… Hello, dial-up! Ah, the memories of sneaking onto your parents’ giant desktop computer to log into a group chat with your friends, speaking through your meticulously thought-out screen name. A quick poll of Uptown Treehouse’s team showed screen name inspiration included skater culture, cartoons, favorite Eminem songs, and the inexplicable use of the name Jim in PyroJim43 because it seemed like “the funniest name imaginable back then for some reason.” First place goes to the screen name tAnGyTaFfy936. Pure ‘90s gold.
It was a much simpler time for the socialscape. You created cute icons and sent messages to your friends while you were supposed to be working on your homework. Remember setting up an Away Message? It’s funny to think of a time where we were actually away from our social media. Now it’s within arm’s reach 24/7.
There was no feed algorithm to decide what you would see. No number of “Followers” or “Likes” to plague your innermost anxieties. You logged on when you wanted and chatted with friends who happened to be online at the time (friends that were considered ACTUAL friends from the real world, versus a random person you kinda sorta met at a party once 9 years ago). The biggest thing to worry about was the possibility that someone might pick up the house phone and kick you offline before you got a chance to say “ttyl.” It’s tough to forget the sound of that little digital AIM door slamming shut unexpectedly. Speaking of which, why did it creak so loudly when it opened? How old was this door? We may never know.
MySpace (August 2003 - Zombie Status)
Flash forward a few years. We've moved past the quaint days of AIM and onto a new, and much more complex social platform. Could you still name who was in your ‘Top 8’ today? This was the platform that catapulted our selfie obsession and sparked our interest in openly sharing more details about our lives. We mastered the art of capturing ourselves in our natural habitat by holding up our flip phone and snagging a pic of our good side, at the right angle, with the right lighting. We posted photos, followed our favorite bands, and carefully curated playlists to make ourselves seem cooler.
This was where we first learned how to create a rounded online presence that may, or may not, have been an accurate representation of ourselves IRL. *Sigh* No wonder everything on MySpace looked a little emo.
Cue the Facebook frenzy of 2005. MySpace quickly became obsolete as everyone jumped on the latest social media bandwagon. Like the memory of an old friend, MySpace soon faded away… but not before being sold by its founder for over half a billion dollars in the nick of time. So yeah, exactly like the memory of an old friend.
Vine (January 24, 2013 - January 2017*)
By 2013, we had all been on Facebook for so long even our grandma was on our list of friends. Instagram was now the preferred social platform of millennials. Our selfies, you ask? Well, let’s just say those are getting all the “Likes” on the ‘Gram.
Vine sprouted up during this new wave of social media platforms to capture our goldfish-like attention span in 6-second looping perfection. Some people looped videos of pets and everyday life; others spent an elaborate amount of time looping videos of pranks or stories. We honed our skills in crafting short, funny videos, sharing even tinier splices of our lives.
It all ended too quickly when social media giant, Instagram, made integrating videos even easier. Vine will forever live on in our memories… Our short, fickle memories. RIP.
*v2 will launch in the Summer of 2018.
The Future of Social
While people are quick to pick up new apps and social media platforms, they’re slow to adopt them fully. It's difficult to see any single platform surpassing the ubiquitous popularity of Facebook in the near future, but of course that won’t stop people from trying. Who knows when a David vs. Goliath level takedown could happen.
Take Vero, for example. Vero is the latest social platform to make a blip on our social media radar. While it’s existed for a few years (launched in 2015), it gained mainstream attention in February because Instagram users were fed up with the new algorithm, which replaced its chronological feed. Vero now has over 3 million downloads and is still growing.
The platform’s founders have been staunchly against ads, planning to have users pay a yearly fee to keep the app exclusive to individuals and not brands. The massive number of downloads in February caused a lot of server issues due to the level of traffic to the app. Now the question is whether the app makes it through these initial bumps and retains its users.
In a Nutshell
It all started with a simple internet chat group that turned into a customized personal profile, and then an elaborately planned looping video. The powerhouses of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have solidified their places as platform mainstays, but there will always be a few people out there looking to create the next best platform, minus the bugs… er, “features” of the big guys.
Even in the wake of the latest privacy scandal, it seems that we’ve never been less afraid to share our personal information on social media. It’s clear that we’ve increased our time online year over year, and the future is beginning to look a lot like an episode of Black Mirror. Social media has become so integrated into our everyday lives, it seems like the next iteration of any platform will be one that makes our online and offline lives feel like a single, cohesive existence. We’ll be sure to post about it on social when that day comes.