Ah social networking, just one of many present-day trends that seems at least partially dependant on describing itself as “a thing of the future.” So much so, in fact, that we sometimes forget that there was a past that led up to where we are now . . . the present. Let’s take a look at how we got where we are today.
Back in the 1960s, computers were still nothing more than big, bulky monsters that could perform only one task at a time. In those days, computer scientists were actually quite socially capable, and as such, were able to charm the pants off of the government agencies responsible for giving them loads of funding. These few dedicated individuals worked night and day to develop more efficient punch-card systems for the electronic behemoths to work with.
Sometime around the mid-1970s, the American government began heavily sponsoring the development of computers, having entered into a race against the Russians to be the first to develop a way for teenage kids to download free pornography.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, many nerds decided to invent games such as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons to pass the time while they waited for World of Warcraft to be invented. Seeing this as tempting but counter-productive, two young nerds, one suffering from a crippling addiction to windows, and the other who would go on to have a lifelong love affair with the black turtleneck — it was time for world domination. Rather than hanging out in their basements, taking turns rolling a 12-sided die, they hung around in a garage and tried to figure out how to make a bong out of a microprocessor. When that didn’t work, they decided to just invent the personal computer, unknowingly giving rise to a new breed of dweeb — the computer geek.
By the mid-’90s, the Internet’s growing popularity began to give higher purpose to personal computers, and online communities were springing up like wildfire. It wasn’t long before you could find a chat room about any little thing. If you hated that seven-second segue in the film version of Catch-22, you could find a group of people dedicated to ranting about how much they despise it.
Fast-forward to the mid-2000s, when MySpace became the next big thing — a central location for both emo kids and terrible musicians. In the old days, musicians who wanted to get their music out to a worldwide audience had to either have some semblance of musical skill or live in Great Britain in the mid 1970s. Now, anyone who could play an approximation of three chords on guitar was able to abuse the Internet in such a way that people on the other side of the globe would be able to listen.
Then one day something magical happened. A movie star named Jesse Eisenberg came along, armed with nothing but an inflated sense of entitlement and a bad case of insomnia, and was able to single-handedly steal a really good website idea from some dude who always stood beside a mirror.
Facebook had everything. Now, rather than having an online site for your photos, another for your contacts, another for your band’s profile page, etc., you had Facebook, which let you put all that in one place. Whether you were the FBI, a stalker or just an average idiot looking for a place to post incriminating photos of you and your friends, Facebook had something for you.
Now, Google+ is promising to be the next big thing. It will bring a whole new dimension to stalking, with the latest in “circle” technology — now everyone can have his or her own circle of stalkers, where they “huddle” together and trade the hottest tips.
What’s my point? Well I believe that speculating about future technologies is probably one of the most futile activities that one can partake in, because social media is always evolving, and its users are always finding novel ways to utilize (or exploit) it. That’s why I’ll leave it to the future to provide the answers about what’s to come, and what role it will play.