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Here are some fun facts that might shock you. Over eight years ago you had never seen a video on YouTube. Seven years ago you had never composed a Tweet. Just three years ago you had never rendered a picture on Instagram and eight months ago you had never heard of SnapChat. This is all very hard to believe. In April 2013 there are ways to connect to people all over the world in a matter of seconds. Growing up during the 1990s I saw how this all began as the Internet became available to the public at large. Here is a brief history from my perspective.

Growing Up in the 1990s

I can clearly remember my first computer. It was an IBM (cr)Aptiva and I was 15 when I got it. Like any 15 year old boy I was excited to hop on the Internet and see what was out there; especially girls! This was a time when you paid $30 for 20 hours of internet dial up service. Ahh, the memories. One of the first things I did when I connected to “Grove Net” was to search for people. Finding people has always been at the core of the Internet. Some of the programs I downloaded were ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger. These programs were a staple through the rest of my high school career.

As I approached graduation day I knew that I would be going away to college in Raleigh, NC at North Carolina State University. My two best friends were going with me but I knew no one else who would be on campus that August. I scoured AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ but it was so very hard to find anyone who was of a similar interest. In fact, it was truly impossible. Trust me, I tried as hard as anyone to find people who would be attending NC State.

It was no longer the 1990s but the idea of social media and being social on the Internet was still very new. At this time it was considered taboo for anyone to date someone they “met online”. All of my college buddies had AOL Instant Messenger and it was the easiest way to relay messages quickly. At the time there was no where to create an online profile and post pictures. Google was just starting to get popular and GMail didn’t even exist. There were websites like Campus Flirts and others that attempted to bring college students together. Literally. The one at NC State was The Wolf Web.

As my college career was reaching its peak this website called The Facebook came out. The second I saw The Facebook I knew it was going to be huge. I have said it a million times. Anyone who was on a college campus from 1997 to 2003 knew there was a place for coeds to meet online. If you had the coding ability and the resources this was going to be enormous. Mark Zuckerburg did and the rest is history.

Was The Facebook the Beginning of Social Media?

Looking back on the early beginnings of social media it was obvious that The Facebook was nothing new. Sports fans went on message boards and forums like Rivals and Scout. TV fans were talking about Survivor and Friends on message boards on the websites of the respective channels. People are naturally social. We want to talk about the things we enjoy. The Facebook made it exclusive for college students to converse and meet with others on a college campus.

If you have followed me at all in the past five years you know that I have a firm belief that most social products start on a college campus. For those that may not be aware, that little search engine Google was created on a college campus. The Facebook was created on a college campus. Most startups are sparked from something at the collegiate level. I feel so strongly about this that I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to be in the middle of this “social” adventure that is going on.

In February of 2005 YouTube was created and I personally feel as if this was the tipping point for social media. It wasn’t Facebook, it wasn’t Twitter and it definitely wasn’t Instagram. It was the ability for individuals to create and share videos of themselves for free. This allowed everyone to be a celebrity. Let us be honest, for the most part, social media is about being a celebrity in your own eyes. There is nothing bigger than being on TV or in a video, right?

Social Media 

It is almost hard to believe that many people have over 10 social media profiles. Here are some of the more common profiles:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Google+
  • GoodReads

It was almost unimaginable to think that you could keep up with this many profiles in the 1990s. It was all I could do to check my email! As we continue to move forward I feel as if there is a space for many niche social media websites and networks. With smartphone apps getting better every single day it stands to reason that any niche with over 1000 people interested should and will create a social media network. This has already started in some areas such as sports. You can find message boards and forums for any major university in the nation. Instead of posting to Twitter or Facebook fans would rather post to their favorite teams message board because they know the message will be well received.

I look for this to happen in almost every subject matter whether it be religion, politics, technology, business, investing or food. Birds of a feather flock together and we will see that more and more moving forward. Embrace it, find your tribe and enjoy social media for what it is. Do not let it consume your life.


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