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I’ve just written a post for my Nouveau Librarian blog about social media and how ‘social’ it really is and two things have struck me:
1. It’s amazing that we can be ‘friends’ with so many people these days
2. I’ve been using social media, in one form or another, for about 10 years now.
Ten years! That’s a rather long time, and it got thinking about the social media milestones I’ve experienced along the way.
A Timeline of My Experience with Social Media
2001: Council of Elrond/Livejournal
I’ll regret saying this eventually… but my whole experience of social media and making friends online began as a direct result of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film adaptations. A young nerd, my previous experience of online interaction was lying about my age and occasionally being groomed on online chatrooms. Tame, I have to say, but formative experience nonetheless.
How I stumbled across Council of Elrond I no longer remember, but as soon as I’d set up an online account to participate in the forum discussions, I found myself gifted with an online journal as well. As such, through various posts/arguments about – from what I remember, life and not Lord of the Rings – I discovered a group of like-minded people. It’s funny how being online makes you less afraid, and so through being outspoken about other people’s prejudices and my own opinions I accidentally made some very, very close friends who shared all of my beliefs and interests. Also, being online put enough distance between us to really get to know each other, and so some of the time these girls knew more about me than my in-person friends did.
Eventually the CofE admin got sick of arguments about abortion taking up their generously-given journal space and so we were forced to migrate to that most adolescent of places: Livejournal. I still have three active LJs, only one of which I ever look at and the others I probably couldn’t remember how to access if I tried. At the time, LJ was the place to go to make new friends who wanted to write, to share my writing (original or otherwise), and to continue discussing any number of important things with my new online girlfriends. I think it got to Sixth Form when I finally shared the details of my LJ with people I had met in real life, and after reading all about their personal lives (and mostly likely, they about mine), I promptly stopped using it. I still check back from time to time as I’m never going to stop being nosy, but I don’t think I’ve made a public post for something approaching three years.
Roundabout the same time that I discovered ‘Real People’ (by which I mean locals) used Livejournal, I discovered DeviantArt. It was something possibly suggested by these lovely, in-person friends as a place to share and archive my writing at the time. To be honest, it wasn’t really a social explosion. The friends I had told about it read it, some of them mentioned me to other friends of theirs who used it, and we chatted. Nothing special. It still exists – like the abandoned livejournals. It too, remains untouched.
It wasn’t all bad! I did write a poem which was awarded a university poetry prize, and if I hadn’t been conversing with other writers online I probably wouldn’t have had the motivation to write or submit it – so that was worthwhile. I did also make one almost-friend who, through serendipity, was to attend Royal Holloway at the same time of me for an English and Drama degree (I think). He stumbled across one of my poems, we commented on each other’s galleries a few times, and eventually through private messaging began chatting.
However, it was most definitely not to be. Once installed at Royal Holloway, he and I decided to meet. Oh, the failures of real-life meetings with people you should only talk to online! At least online you have the capability to consider your responses…
We arranged a rather nice way of meeting up. Clues were given to locations in Founder’s Library, and notes left for one another suggesting a place to meet. We found one another in the North Quad and went for hot chocolate. Where we then discovered we had nothing in common but locality and an ability to use a keyboard to compose poems and private messages. Not a single thing else. It was altogether rather awkward and put an end to our online discussions also! Oh well.
Is this rather late? A quick Google query of “when did facebook start” tells me that I was two years late to the game, with Mr. Zuckerberg launching the much-discussed social networking platform in 2004. Well, in my defence, why the hell would I have needed Facebook before then?! I spoke to all my ‘friends’ every day at school, and as I’ve clearly stated above, those who I wanted to talk to online; I already could.
I joined Facebook at the end of Sixth Form, which was around the 2006/2007 mark. My first photographs are a (rather bedraggled-looking) me in an off-white Pates’ Grammar School hoodie with various other Patesians on our very last day. The relief in my face is obvious. After leaving Pates’ Facebook became a necessity to keep up with those on gap years or at other universities, as well as to check up on the lives of those we used to go to school with. So I joined. It also meant I could play Scrabble in my pajamas with people who lived on the other side of the wall in halls, and caption pictures with ever-embarrassing taglines (“Promises, promises!”).
I liked Facebook, but by graduation (2010) I had become thoroughly bored of it. Again, I spoke to the people I wanted to speak to, and was getting bored of keeping up with the ever-embarrassing antics of others. In short, I lost touch. My profile became bereft – and possibly the only thing I ever updated regularly was my photo albums, and only then to prove to other people that I was still alive and doing things and that I hadn’t just crawled under a rock.
2010: The iPhone
I consider the iPhone to be a social media milestone simply because it helped me to re-connect. On buying it, I immediately downloaded the Facebook app, even though I no longer used Facebook. I also opened a Twitter account and downloaded the Twitter app. At first, I didn’t know what to do, but after a while I got into the habit of tapping the icon and updating my timeline with whatever gripes/thoughts arose.
I have two twitter accounts, collectingwords and _kimguin – one for literary quotations and the other for aforementioned gripes etc. I do not know how to use Twitter unless it is with this app. And I use it A LOT. There are times my housemate and I will sit next to each other, reading timelines and not talking. This may have to stop… But we are addicted – and it’s down to the iPhone. It has genuinely changed the way in which I interact with the internet.
As an aside, some of those girls I made friend with at Council of Elrond that time ago I now follow on Twitter and am friends with on Facebook! So who says internet relationships don’t work?
2011: Twitter, WordPress
As was the point of the original post on Nouveau Librarian, I’ve been learning how to use social media in a professional sense since I became, for want of a better word, a ‘professional’. As a 9-5 working human considering a career in libraries, joining the CPD23 project was an obvious choice – and although I had recently set up this blog in an attempt to be more interesting and less personal online, I split my professional and ‘other’ persona with Nouveau Librarian and this blog.
Twitter is now not just a place to moan about things, or retweet inappropriate jokes – and nor is WordPress. Both I now use in a a vaguely professional sense – I want to be able to share my opinions on a number of things that I read, watch and encounter and so I’ve been using CPD23 to learn a little more about creating a decent online persona. A work in progress, as I’m sure I don’t have to say. But I am certainly using Twitter more and more to follow library-related conversations, tweet at conferences/events and make new professional friends so that I can learn more.
And I have to say, I’m really enjoying using WordPress. I love it here, it’s easy to use, I can create new blogs as easy as blinking (although I do now have a number of the damn things registered and it’s been some time since I properly updated any of them…) and I’m doing what I wanted to do – keep writing and keep sharing. One day I hope this will stretch to original writing again, but we’ll see!
Social Media I missed, and why
I’ve dumped these in the same category because really, what was the point of either? Weren’t they kind of the same – expect that MySpace was for bands and Bebo for children? I don’t know…
From what I remember, everyone at my secondary school went through a phase of creating a MySpace/Bebo account – some even went as far as a Geocities webpage (aah, I am that old…) – but I never, ever did. The reasons for this are twofold: firstly, I am overly cautious about sharing my name, location, age, etc onine; secondly, I’m lazy. These things take a lot of time to maintain and I think at the time I was too busy journalling and chatting to people in America and New Zealand to bother. And again, MySpace and Bebo were sort of ahead of Facebook and so mostly unecessary for someone whose social circle really did consist of the people they saw at school.
I think I’m quite glad about that now. As I’m attempting to be a new professional, not having to clean up my online presence is really a good idea – old MySpace accounts are surely nothing but embarrassing?
What else did I miss? Are there any social media milestones that stand out for you?