Someone asked me this earlier on Twitter. You would think it would be simple one to answer. After all, social networking is still in its infancy, right? Wrong! Social networks have been around since before the Internet was actually – well – the Internet. Stop thinking that these words only encompass sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Once you do, many of you will realize that you’ve likely never lived a moment of your life without some form of social networking.
As defined: “A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.” Of course, these networks exist offline, as well. For the sake of this post, we’re going to pretend we are only referring to things found on the Web.
Back in the late 70s through the early 90s, you could connect with others online via a BBS. This is nearly FORTY years ago these things started becoming popular, y’all. The service was used to upload and download software or data, read news and bulletins and exchanging messages with other users. Oh, and there were also games to play against yourself and other members. Hm… this sounds an awful lot like an early version of nearly every social site out there today, doesn’t it?
Social networks are evolving, sure. Sites are coming up with new features and better ways to connect. That supposed innovation comes with a price, though… a huge lack of any form of privacy. We have evolved into a generation of people who claim to care about our privacy yet who continue to post nearly every aspect of our lives online for the world to peruse. We check in and tell others where we are every moment of the day. We send out statuses and messages telling them what we’re doing, who we’re talking to and where we may be headed next. We share nearly everything.
To me, this is the main difference between networks of today and the ones from 30+ years ago. It’s not about the difference in platforms. WE have changed. Yup – Facebook looks slick as hell compared to an old BBS. Twitter is faster and simpler to use. But at the very core of each type of service – where are the true differences – the real innovations?
You should stop asking yourselves what life would be like without social networks. They’ve been around for many more years than you thought, and they aren’t going anywhere. What you should ask yourself, instead, is “How am I going to change the way I use these services throughout my life?”