Monday, December 1, 2008

Social Media, Circa 1997

Canadian blogger SuzeMuse had a great post today about social media not being new at all. As a social media veteran of over 11 years, I can assure you she's right. Her post inspired me to take a trip back to web 2.0, circa 1997.

Back then, I was a stay-home mom, desperate for social interaction but totally isolated from actual friends. The only thing I had to keep me company was a computer and a dial-up connection. What started as a Google search for an ovulation calendar led me to an “expecting club” of women who were also trying to conceive—and with that, my social media journey began.

Through the magic of one of my favorite web tools, the Wayback Machine, I was actually able to dig up the page that started it all for me. This is a snapshot of the page in 1997.

Guess the concept worked because here’s the 2008 version of the same site.

Ok—you say-—maybe there were online communities back then, but not web 2.0 stuff like reviews, blogs or videos. Actually, look again: granted, the 1997 version doesn’t have blogs, but it does have groups, reviews and videos (sorry, link to the videos is broken).

As SuzeMuse, well, muses, about Twitter one day just vanishing--imagine your most valued social network suddenly disappearing? It happened to my online mom community-—multiple times. But Suze is exactly right: somehow we were always able to pick up the pieces, rebuild and regroup. Somehow (can you say social networking?) we’d always manage to spread the word to one another and find the newly-created group. Imagine trying to find and contact all of your Twitter followers--but without Twitter. Good luck with that.

Oh, and forget luxuries like free social networks—our boards were either hosted and supported by one woman’s techie husband, or built on rickety, unreliable services that would go down at the drop of the hat and stay down for days, if not permanently. Imagine 100 women all waiting breathlessly to hear whether Sally’s pregnancy test was positive after watching her trying to conceive for 7 years and having the boards suddenly be gone for a week or more? Happened. Ditto for labor, births, and other cliff-hanger moments.

We have had some awesome meetups—10 or more of us at a time, some traveling from as far away as Australia and Norway. Flying from Australia to DC to meet up with a bunch of women you’ve never even laid eyes on and know only by virtue of an online social network? If that isn't a testament to the power of social media, I don’t know what is.

All I know is that anyone who says social media is just a fad hasn’t had the experiences I’ve had. Social media is here to stay, period.

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