Why I Love Social Media OR The Timeline of a Social Media Enthusiast

July 29, 2009

A few years back I read an article about the growing number of people suffering from internet addiction. Yes, internet addiction. And after I finished laughing at the expense of unknown others, an eerie and ironic thought settled in: Am I addicted to the internet? Quickly, I summarized how I’d spent the last 4 days…on the internet. To say I was just “on the internet” is a massive understatement.  I could easily spend 10 hours at the computer; googling with glee as I absorbed every piece of random information, passing that information to friends, finding new friends and eventually picking up a slew of new hobbies taught to me via the world wide web!

Of course, I had a minor breakdown once I figured out how much time I was spending online. And I proceeded to spend more countless hours on the internet looking for commentary on “unplugging yourself” and “simplifying my lifestyle”.  I tried some of the techniques and then in true circular fashion, returned back to the internet excited to share everything I had found during my unplugged moments.

Eventually, I decided that there was no real need to unplug. I wasn’t a total shut-in; I had plenty of relationships that existed outside of the virtual world. I still consumed the mountain of periodicals that arrived in my mailbox and most importantly, I was a photographer and that required me to spend a ton of time interacting with the “real world”. The largest epiphany was that I had spent a majority of my life on a computer and I rationalized that this truth was responsible for making me the well-rounded individual I am today (see how easy it is to rationalize anything!).

Thanks to my gadget-loving parents, I have had access to a computer and a plethora of software since the age of 4. In the beginning it was educational games and playing with the scraps of perforated paper from that loud (and now seemingly very dated) printer. Then it was my first email address, which at the time seemed far cooler than the personal telephone line that all of my peers were begging their parents for. Next and probably the most important was Prodigy.

Oh, Prodigy chat rooms you will never know how much you meant to a 14 year old girl in 1996. It seemed as if the whole world was at my keyboard and I can’t even fathom how many summer nights were spent wrapped in the glow of that blazing white screen with blue and red text. Chat rooms were the ultimate party to me…especially since I was only 14 and didn’t have many parties to attend (except for those always fun Bar & Bat Mitzvah’s).

Within a year, a personal telephone line was almost unnecessary (instead I was asking for “personal” computers) because

AOL launched instant messenger. In hindsight I can thank AOL IM for taking my typing skills to new heights! In the ol’ days, we spoke and typed with real, full words…emoticons were very limited and “LOL” was just a baby; “OMG” wasn’t even a fetus. Chat rooms and instant messenger taught me to type with a vigorous speed only seen by frantic college students with a term paper due in a hour. If I was going to hold my own in a political debate chat room I had to type quick!

It wasn’t until 2003 that my social media circle expanded beyond my wildest dreams and it all started with an account on Friendster. Friendster was hip, too hip in my opinion. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Friendster (and eventually, American Apparel) is responsible for the infamous “hipster” and it’s widely publicized ways of being. You had to be invited to be on Friendster and thanks to an outrageously cool DJ out of Austin, I was asked to join this group of tattooed, artsy, always ironic and donning chucks and Buddy Holly glasses crew.

Friendster was cool and everyone showed their cool through their lists of underground music, film and literary loves. But then a new crew showed up and its platform was bigger, better and a lot more fun: Myspace. I jumped on the Myspace train on October 27, 2003 and within months; it consumed a majority of my leisure computer time. All of a sudden, I was connected to what seemed like the entire world. I could promote my art exhibitions, find new artists to collaborate with, view pictures from last night’s party and consume more social information than I could handle. It seemed as if my whole life could be summarized into interests, favorite music, favorite movies, comments and a friend list that included this mysterious guy named Tom.

And I’m pretty sure that you know the rest of this story. Now there are a million resources at my disposal. I indulge in everything from the services mentioned in this post to at least 7 resources in the image to the right. Not to mention new services that have popped up in the last year (hint: I love social bookmarking and image posting like FFFound!) But beyond being resources they have connected me to the world. I love that social media is largely responsible for changing how people connect to presidential candidates and their campaigns. I love that moms went nuts about Twitter & Facebook after Oprah announced her jump into social media. I love that I feel like there is nothing I can’t learn as long as I can google. I love blogs about blogging and blogs about nothing and blogs about everything. I love that my number of google hits or my blog traffic is how I partially define career success. I love that there is a community for every person on this planet and that it can be accessed with a few keystrokes. I love that YouTube has applauded the quirkiness of people. I love that millions of people find solace, fame, comfort, laughter and a million things in between just by typing a few words.

In short, after 23 years on the computer, I am blown away at the value it has brought to my life. Clearly, I gave up on

“unplugging” (I just love blogging far too much) but I did buy a netbook so I could be uber-mobile in my internet adventures!

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