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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Microstory 938: Social Media

Way back in the day, people were using social media before they were calling it that. I had an AOL Instant Messenger account when I was eleven years old, and several more over the course of the next nine or ten years, until it started falling out of favor. I spoke primarily to strangers by searching “common interests” that I realize now no one was taking seriously. Back then, we didn’t have internet safety discussions in the elementary school library. We had to figure out for ourselves that, just because someone claimed they could be trusted online, didn’t mean it was true. Most of us intuited that we were not to give out personal information, aided by the fact that AOL asked us to create usernames, rather than use our real names. These were not even the early days of internet communication. People before by time were using newsgroups, and…I wanna say, usenets? I’m not sure what they were exactly, but I can guess they were fairly unsophisticated. Come high school, people were still using instant messengers, but it was becoming hip to have a permanent web presence. Sites like MySpace, Xanga, and even were vying to give you their free accounts. I built a few stupid websites on my own before then, and never thought it would be something almost everyone had. But I guess it just had to become easier, and require no coding skills (I taught myself HTML, but for some reason, didn’t become the next Bill Gates, which is weird). Soon, one social media engine was seen to be moving faster than all the others. Facebook was edging out all competition to be the dominant force. You had to have a legitimate college email address, had to request your institution be added if it wasn’t already there, and it was generally expected that you use your real name. Instead of pointless blog posts, or innocuous conversations, this was designed to maintain contact with people to which you were no longer necessarily geographically linked. It was also helpful for school itself. I used it extensively to ask for help from my classmates; a fact that ultimately led me to deleting my account once I graduated from college. Facebook was only getting better, adding more features by the month, and eventually letting anyone over the age of thirteen in, whether they were attached to a school, or not. But a pattern emerged from this as well.

There are four main types of Facebook posts. One: personal tidbits/irrelevant aglets of conversation. Two: memes. Three: news. Four: fake news. I don’t care about most of it, and always found myself using Twitter mostly. Why? Not in spite of, but because of, the character limit. It was nearly impossible to go on a rant in Twitter’s early days. If you wanted to say something, you had to think about how to shorten it, thereby only expressing the most vital information. It allows me to keep up on the news, and the fact that you can’t post the text of an entire article means it’s much harder to spread misinformation. While I’m meant to connect with everyone I know on Facebook, I don’t feel bad about only following people I want to hear from on Twitter. After nearly eleven years of this, my Twitter game remains strong. I have three accounts, which are accompanied by an Instagram account I don’t use as much as I would like. I have since created a new Facebook account too, but I don’t scroll through the feed, and am only interested in sharing my original content. I don’t understand the appeal of Snapchat and Instagram stories, because if I tell you something, I want you to remember it, not limit it to your short-term memory, after which you move on to something else. I do appreciate that others are getting something out of it, though, along with Facebook. I just hope you don’t pay too much attention to that fake news. That’s exactly what the Russians want. Come on over to Twitter, where it’s fairly clear who you should follow, and who you shouldn’t.

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