Social Media Isn’t New… Is it?
Social mediaÂ refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, exchange and comment contents among themselves in virtual communities and networks. Andreas KaplanÂ -Â http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media
If this definition is to be believed then social media has been going on much before the likes of MySpace in 2003. I think it even pre-dates the internet. A tweet from @Documentally a little while ago got me thinking about when I started my journey into Social Media.
If you include the CB radio, I’ve been experimenting with social networks for the last 30 years.
â€” Documentally (@Documentally) November 2, 2012
I had never thought about the CB radio as a social network, but of cause it is. Â You created an identity (a handle), you broadcast to the world (or the little bit of the world your ‘rig’ could manage), talked with friends in the ‘real world’ and found new CB only friends (One Nine a Roger?). Â You could chat with a friend on a specific channel (hashtag?), but anyone within reach could jump in and join the conversation.
I got a CB radio in the summer of 1992 if memory serves. Â I’d saved up for the equipment myself and my parents let me get on with it. Â They understood I could talk to people on the CB, but probably didn’tÂ think about the fact I could talk (or simply just be heard) by anyone within the area with the right equipment.
Conversations would often beÂ interrupted,Â sometimes by people wanting to chat, other times by people wanting toÂ disrupt. Â They’d jump in and swear, transmit over others, tell us to leave ‘their’ channel. Â MyÂ friendsÂ and IÂ cameÂ up with an ingenious series of words which when spoken would tell those in the know which channel to change to. It was our attempt to block the disruptive user.
It was an unwritten rule that you never gave your real name, address,school or where you were going to meet up out on the air. Â Anyone could be listening! Â We knew our lessons from school about stranger danger.
In late 1994 I finally had access to my first home computer, and shortly afterwards a modem. Â I loved viewing all the webpages the net had to offer, but after a while reading most of the (usually text on a grey background) pages I could find on subjects that interested me most I wanted something more. Â Very few of my circle of friends had email, so I turned to a service called IRC – Internet Relay Chat.
In many ways IRC was like the CB. Public chat rooms called channels where people could broadcast freely. Â I’d join a channel about music and talk to like minded individuals about their likes and dislikes, who they were going to see live, and they mightÂ recommendÂ a website for more information. Again, even then, I always kept personal details to myself. Â Never giving more away than my first name and which city I lived near. Â When a user first annoyed me, I quickly found the command to /ignore.
Once again, my parents had no idea what I was up to. Â It was a world they didn’t know much about but I was quiet, happy, and not getting myself into trouble. Â Or at least that’s what they thought.
Thankfully I never really did get myself into any trouble. Â Yes, people occasionally called me names. Yes, people wanted me to go into private chats. Â However as a young individual entering a new world, I can’t say I ever came to any harm. Â However looking back now, if I had got myself into trouble, I’m really not sure who I would have turned to.
Fast forward to today, and I am truly connected 24/7. Â Computer, tablet, TV, smart phone, GPS. Email, websites, social networks, skype. Â The rules which I gave myself on the CB, and my first entry into internet chat rooms are still the ones I mainly live by today. Â Unless I know people offline they see limited information about me online. Â Never enough to find me, and rarely enough to poke fun at me.
As a parent myself now to two children, I try to keep up with the social media trends. Â They are both still in primary school, so it’s mainly about mushi monsters and other game based networks at the moment. Â I want to keep them safe but show trust, and allow some freedom. Â I’d like to be more involved in their online lives than my parents were. Â I’ve started them with a blog each, where we have three important rules. Â Don’t postÂ anyone’sÂ personal details, don’t post anyone’s picture, and be positive!
My kids know that if anything were to upset them, or make them feel uncomfortable online. They could go straight to me, or another trusted adult. Â They know they won’t be in trouble and that I’ll listen and explain how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Â They also know that I’ll speak to someone who can help, if I can’t fix it myself.
I believe parents owe it to their kids to keep as up to date as they can with the technology their children take for granted.
Today social media sites generally take a more serious approach to safety. Â Most have easilyÂ accessibleÂ reporting mechanisms. Â There are organisations like CEOP, The UK Safer Internet Centre, and theÂ Internet Watch Foundation, none of which were around when I was a kid. Â Technology is more readily available today than it’s ever been, but it really shouldn’t be feared.
Photo by CubwolfÂ and used under creative commons.