When did Media Become Social?


“Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.” – Jay Baer

Do you ever stop and think what life was like before social media? It’s strange to think that the younger generation has never experienced that ‘Before Social Media’ (BSM) era, and the generations to come also never will.

Being 21, I still am part of GenY, but I already see such a big difference with my cousins, who are only about 10 years younger than I am. They walk the social media walk and talk the social media talk pretty much 24/7, having their iPhone at hand and ready to go just in case they need to ask their online friends what-that-name-of-that-new-One-Direction-song-was-again.

Before Social Media (BSM) nostalgia

When I was at primary school and I needed to know something, I would have to go to the library, browse through the catalogue on a computer running on Windows ’98 and hold my head on an angle as I wandered past the bookshelves. Then I would stick the book under the scanner to copy the information I needed (in black&white, mind you). So much has changed since those days, and it’s bizarre to think that was only 10 years ago.

When did it all begin?

The first social networking site launched in 1997, promoted as a tool to “connect with and send messages to others”. In 2003, social media became mainstream, with websites like MySpace and YouTube riding the popularity wave. After Facebook started up in 2004, it seemed like a new era of sharing, liking, commenting and browsing through user-generated content had begun. And after Twitter was launched, users were no longer restricted to sharing their selfies and social diary entries with their friends, but could also follow celebrities, brands and media outlets and share their content with the world.

This is of course a very short snapshot of the history of social media channels, as the list is close to being endless. Luckily, AvaLaunch Media have designed this nifty interactive page where you can track all social media launches by year (click on the image).

By AvaLaunch Media

Why do so many people LIKE social media?

Not only is it interesting to see how social media channels have come about, it is even more interesting to consider user behaviour on these channels. Luckily, social media hasn’t always included duck faces or posts about what’s for lunch. Instead, we seem to have moved from PDA’s to PDC’s; ’Public Displays of Connection’, as found by Boyd & Ellison. I’m sure we all consider how many likes our post could get before publishing it on our social media profiles. Research just proves that we’re not the only ones.

Another thing that is interesting to consider (or at least I think so), is how loyal people are to the social media channels they use. It seems that people are content with using one channel, until another one comes along that seems to have more appealing characteristics. It’s almost like when you buy a new car; even though your old one has gotten you from A to B for years without any issues, a new car with more luxurious features will make anyone disloyal to their old lemon.

Take MySpace for instance. Its users seemed to be pretty happy sharing their information and engaging with their online friends, until Facebook came along and took over like a Maserati. People found it to be simpler in usage, and because all their friends had moved house, they decided to do the same. This snowball effect resulted in MySpace losing 10 million unique users within four weeks at the start of 2011.

Will there ever be an After Social Media (ASM) era?

I think that 80% of all people who browse the Internet can confess that they have a (slight) social media addiction. But could we ever imagine a world without social media? The Guardian reported in April that Facebook is losing millions of users per month, as they either become inactive or switch to other alternative channels, like Instagram or Path.

The potential threat to privacy has become a big concern among users of social media channels, something that also seems to be the cause of a decline in SNS users. Ever since the introduction of the News Feed option on Facebook, researchers Boyd & Ellison have found that users are getting edgy as they feel they are losing control over their own content. I doubt whether this will put people off social networking completely, but websites do have to be aware of the fact that their users are becoming more cautious about what to post and on what channel. Because without a significant amount of users, a social media channel is pointless and worthless. And history has taught us that users will relocate when they are unhappy with the host of the party.

What do you think? Will there be an ‘ASM’ era? Will you ever stop using social media? What would be a reason why you would stop using social media? Any predictions on the social media landscape in the next 5-10 years?
Comment below!

Some other interesting viewpoints on social media:


Barnett, E. (2011, March 24). MySpace loses 10 million users in one month. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/myspace/8404510/MySpace-loses-10-million-users-in-a-month.html

Boyd, D. & Ellison, N.B. (2008). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, p. 210-230.

Garside, J. (2013, April 29). Facebook loses millions of users as biggest market peaks. The Guardian. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/apr/28/facebook-loses-users-biggest-markets

Facebook Newsroom: Key Facts. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts

Van Grove, J. (2013, June 27). MySpace cool again? New site sees 31M unique visitors in first 2 weeks. CNET. Retrieved on July 30, 2013, from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57591351-93/myspace-cool-again-new-site-sees-31m-unique-visitors-in-first-2-weeks/


5 thoughts on “When did Media Become Social?

  1. I’m a “Gen Y’er” too, but I’ve never really used social media, so I guess that’s my answer! Well, not quite true – I used to have a Facebook account, but it’s been dead for about seven years. I do have an active Twitter account, but I use a pseudonym on it and don’t use it for socializing, so I don’t think that counts. I might not be the best example, though, since I’ve always been an introvert and was practically a recluse for a few years outside of my working hours.

    I don’t think there will be an “ASM” ever again. Social media will just take a new form than it has now.

    • Thanks for your reply! I guess you could consider yourself to be more social because you don’t actively use your social media accounts! 😉 I’ve heard about people taking a social media detox for a couple of weeks, and not a lot of people actually missing it. I think I would, as I also see social media as a #1 source for breaking news and updates. And I agree, I think social media has become such an integrated part of our lives that it will never disappear. Just like traditional media sources such as TV and radio; once it becomes mainstream, it pretty much is certain of an infinite place in society. But like you said, it might take a new form, just like TVs are becoming smart to adhere to the multitasking generation of late.

  2. I’m also part of GenY-anick. Haha. I was an early adopter of Facebook but after all this time I’ve slowly started to lose interest in social media (which, for me consists solely of FB). I used Twitter solely because Uni told me I had to, and my Blackberry doesn’t support Instagram and all that, so there’s no incentive for me to even go down that route.

    I don’t think there’ll be an ASM period. As was stated above ^^, social media will simply take another form. It’ll become even more integrated into our lives, and while we will yearn for the ‘good old days’ where people sent letters to one another and communicated by actually meeting up in person, that is all it will be. A yearning for the past.

    • Haha you still have a Blackberry? I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’re losing interest in Facebook and can only see the pitfalls instead of the benefits, which I can totally understand after it becoming a channel filled with selfies and self-obsessiveness.

      I agree, social media will probably become more integrated into our lives. But it’s always a consolation that the user can still decide for themselves if they want to log-in to Facebook or not, just like you can turn the TV off where there’s nothing good on (which pretty much always is the case nowadays). Anti-Hypodermic Needle Theory all the way. 😉

  3. Great reflective piece, and a really interesting conversation in the comments, too. You have a really engaging, readable ‘voice’ as a blogger.

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