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May 28, 2009

Old Foggies and The Elastic Social Media

Michael Kurtianyk

Over the holiday season, I asked my nephew (college freshman) why he never replied to my emails. His reply: “I don’t use emails. I text message and use Facebook.”


I hadn’t realized that I was such a dinosaur when it came to communicating with others, albeit of a younger generation. I had long ago considered MySpace, but now I think: Does anybody still use MySpace? Does anybody even remember MySpace? Wasn’t it that thing where people could post things about themselves, share music and poems and things? Whatever happened to MySpace? It overtook Friendster – no mention of that online site these days.


Started in 2003, I remember MySpace as one of the most talked about online social media experiences in history. One could create a site, post a bio and pictures, and create links to favorite musicians and games. It has been a boon for some startup musicians and a way to get one’s music out without a recording contract. All a musician has to do is post their music, and then aggressively market through MySpace. Some have received recording contracts because of their efforts there.


In April of 2006, it was reported that approximately 10 million new users joined Given those numbers, it is hard to believe the site is going out of fashion anytime soon, but nobody really talks about it anymore.


One thing that MySpace has done well is capture the ethos of the music industry by branching out into it with the launch of MySpace Records. Various concert series are also being hosted by the site, such as MyFestival, a UK tour featuring many popular bands from the site.


Facebook has gained quite a large following in recent years, since its launch in 2004. In doing research, I learned that Facebook was founded by former-Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (while at Harvard) who ran it as one of his hobby projects. Within months, Facebook and its core idea spread across the Harvard dorm rooms where it was very well received. Later, it was extended to Stanford and Yale where, like Harvard, it was widely endorsed.


As Facebook has evolved, so has its profile pages – new fields have been added and users can share more information than before. A typical Facebook profile consists of a number of different sections, including Information, Status, Friends, Friends in Other Networks, Photos, Notes, Groups, and The Wall. Most sections are self-explanatory but some are specific to Facebook. I like that a Facebook user can upload photos and post them for others to see. It’s a great way to quickly share updates on your family and friends without emailing.


Another thing I like about Facebook is that you can be a “friend” of a group. What this means is that any time the group posts something, you will get the update on your Facebook page. For example, I am a follower of the National Association of Realtors®, and so when they send an update, I will see it. It’s easy, quick, and doesn’t use email.


Twitter is another avenue for getting the word out. It is a "micro-blogging" site. It's a free service that lets you send the briefest of messages to everyone in your network. It’s like text messaging and blogging at the same time.


The maximum Twitter message size is 140 characters. When you enter your micro-blog, it’s called a “tweet.” So, you can tweet a micro-blog for everyone who follows you to see. When you do tweet, you become known as a “Twitterer.” I like the words/phrases that have been borne out of this phenomenon: “tweeple” (people on Twitter); “tweetheart” (a Twitter sweetheart); “twews” (news on Twitter); and my favorite: “twaddict” (a Twitter addict).


Astronaut Mike Massimino made Twitter history with a 139-character post to the micro-blogging site – the first person to do so from space. CBS made history with the first series (“The Amazing Race”) whose renewal was announced there.


I don’t know what the future holds for Facebook and Twitter. Will it go the way of My Space? Maybe not.


Ask me in a year. We’ll see.


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