The Evolution of Social Media

You get this post thanks to Tumblr eating my morning. I don’t even have a Tumblr.

These days, everyone says you need to have a social media presence. Twitter! Facebook! A blog! It’s enough to drive a person crazy, and suck all your time away. (I’ve heard more reasonable marketing people say to pick one or two platforms, and focus your attention there so you can connect with people on a meaningful level without going insane.)

Tumblr is the new social media darling. Everyone I know has one. I was on Diane Duane’s earlier today. You can save anything that catches your fancy by tumbling it, adding your own commentary, or not. Obviously people out there post original content, and then you can see how many other people re-tumble (or whatever the proper term is) through the number of notes something gets. I know writers who put up ficlets, comic artists who preview comics or enhanced panels, and fan artists who post their work directly. But I admit Tumblr is beyond me. I don’t really get it. It might be because I don’t have one myself, but I have to wonder, does following someone’s Tumblr help you to get to know someone? Can you have a connection? Because, quite honestly, I use it for Star Trek macros, when I venture on at all.

(Feel free to explain Tumblr to me if you understand it, Squiders.)

But it got me to thinking about the evolution of social media, and how Tumblr is kind of the peak of said evolution, where you can share things with the click of a button, whether it’s your own content or somebody else’s. It’s the ultimate in stream of consciousness. A single person’s Tumblr can contain thoughts about sexual harassment in genre fiction next to a cute gif of a kitten next to Avengers fanart next to a bit of an interview with an author they like. Anything that appeals to that person can instantly be added in with little more than a thought. And the result is kind of an impression of a person without knowing anything about him/her.

I’ve been on the internet for almost 20 years now, Squiders (oh, God), and I can remember that the closest you had to modern “social media” then was either your own website or a mailing list. (My first website had a black background with neon green text–because there was some sort of movement happening to “save the electrons,” with the theory that dark backgrounds were somehow better for them but was no doubt a huge conspiracy someone thought up, along with the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide.) And then LiveJournal came along, and I spent a good many years there (and am kind of sad now, because it seems like, in the last year or so, everyone has left for Tumblr, though I admittedly hardly ever use mine anymore myself). LJ was kind of the first “blog” website.

And there was really two sorts of social media–connection sites, like MySpace or Facebook, and blogging sites, like Blogger or LJ or a gazillion others that I’ve forgotten. And then Twitter came along, and now everyone’s trying to integrate aspects of each other into themselves, whether it be games or hashtags or gifts or what have you.

It’s interesting, to remember a time before all that, before AOL offered unlimited time and when instant messaging was a big deal, and then look at where we are now, where we can share a thought before we’re even done thinking it.

(Seriously, though, Squiders, explain Tumblr to me.)


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