The internet has change the way we interact so profoundly and so quickly, yet this change seems to have been so gradual and natural, we barely notice how far we have come.
I was 8 years old when my parents bought our first computer. We then got the internet when I was 12 and my first online activity was chatting to random people on AOL chat rooms. Two years later when I was 14, I got my first mobile phone and around the same time, my friends and I were chatting every afternoon after school on MSN chat over the computer. Then after graduating high school, Mspace took off and now Facebook is the social superpower of the web. So when I look back, it really is amazing how far we have come in how we communicate.
So I want to break down how all of this technology really affected how I communicate and interact. Before the computer was introduced, at 8 years old I guess I played outside a lot, played with my toys, played with my sister and my friends, all usual kid stuff I guess. When the computer came along, it wasn’t long before I was addicted to it. Our first computer was a windows 95. We got some basic games with it and it wasn’t long before the computer cut more and more into me and my sister’s play time. At times we would fight over the computer, and other times we would play together on it, such as creating our own little radio shows with the sound recorder.
Then we got the internet, and oh boy was the internet slow back then! Our first internet connection came with an AOL disc we had to install with the old dial up connection. My sister and I were so excited to get the internet. We had no idea what to do with it at first. The only website we knew on the internet was Yahoo to search for stuff and the AOL home page where they had chat rooms. The AOL chat rooms were exciting to me, knowing that you could be talking to anyone from across the world, you never knew who you would speak to next or where they would come from. It felt like you were really connected to the world for the first time.
Back in those days there were lots of creeps on those chat rooms too, but I used to just X out of the chat screens if anyone got too weird. They were strangers after all. I couldn’t count the number of times someone would come up on chat and ask what I am wearing or ask to send them a pic. Plus the internet was so new, parents did not know dangers of some of these online strangers. In fact, the internet was also exciting to me because it was the one thing I had an upper hand on over my parents. Using the computer and the internet was pretty much the only thing I had control over and not them, because they didn’t know how to use them. I had to teach them things about it instead of them teaching me.
Then when I hit high school, everyone started getting mobile phones. Nokia’s were all the rage! These were very basic mobile phones with a grey screen, black text, buttons and snake! Everyone used to decorate their phones with stickers and dongles and you used to be able to buy digital graphics with popular phrases or characters and custom ringtones from the back of teen magazines to be uploaded onto your phone. I can’t say texting really took off when we first got mobile phones, as I can remember we often just wrote notes in class with our collection of glitter pens and pass them onto each other. Obviously texting eventually took off.
I think the biggest shift in my communication through high school was the combination of the mobile phone and msn chat because I can remember when I used to sit on my home phone, chatting to my friends after school until the hands free phone battery went dead, but eventually that all changed, but it was more msn that changed this than the mobile phone because mobile phone bills were too expensive for long chats at the time. I used to be addicted to MSN through school. It was a very social and cool thing to do, and you would feel left out at school the next day if you weren’t involved in the MSN chat the night before. It was a vital part of fitting in and our msn screens were just as personalized as our mobile phones. At least with MSN chat you could only chat with your friends or people you know, unlike the chat rooms I used previously.
Then when I started university, myspace came onto the scene and it was a form of sharing that we hadn’t seen before. Rather than just exchanging your words or files in private text messages or MSN conversations this was a platform where you could share your whole life with your friends, and potentially the entire world. I could show off my favorite bands, tv shows, movies, photos, my mood that day, my life story. One of the biggest downsides to this platform was having to display your top friends on your page which often resulted in many cat fights when girls would be questioning each other on why their friendship ranking was so low on their myspace page.
Obviously now Facebook is like the new and improved myspace. Facebook sure has changed a lot tho from when I first started up an account, because now consumerism has really seeped into the online world of social interaction in a big way. Brands are really taking advantage of getting into your personal space on Facebook as they attempt to make their brand part of that social interaction you have whilst using Facebook.
Then there is Instigram, Pinterest, Reddit, blogs and the like. There are so many options out there for us to communicate with our friends and the world, it seems endless now!
So overall, I am not trying to say that the progress of social interaction through technology is a good thing, or a bad thing. I think this example from my life just shows how much has changed in 15 years, and while communication is so important in all its forms, nothing beats a good face to face catch up with your best friends! 🙂