February 18, 2009

From Cave Walls to FriendFeed

How old is social media?

At the core of social networking is connection. It has been going on for about the last 100,000 years or so.

People used to write stories about their lives through pictures on cave walls.

Juan Pablo Bonet first introduced a new way of communication for the deaf and today millions converse through sign language.

Can you hear me now?

In 1836, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail developed an electronic telegraph machine that sent a series of electric currents which made markings on tape. An alphabet was devised and long distance two-way communication was made possible with basic equipment.

Ancient Greece is the place where the earliest form of shorthand was documented. As early as 400BC, shortened versions of full words were carved on to marble using mostly vowels with slight variations to indicate consonants.

Rocket ships and email

In the late fifties during the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. This event caused the Americans to quickly get to work on the Advanced Research Projects Agency or ARPA which later became ARPA Network or ARPANET. Today, you and I know it as The Internet.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1400’s. His creation revolutionized communication. A&E named him the most influential person of the 20th century.

Shawn Fanning turned the music industry on its head with his invention of computer code and later Napster which allowed people to electronically share songs.

What does all of this have to do with Social Media?

In short, everything.

This is not about LinkedIn or Facebook, MySpace or Bebo, Twitter or FriendFeed.

Morse code, the Internet, hieroglyphs, the printing press, mp3s, shorthand and many other magnificent inventions have immeasurably helped us better connect with each other while sharing stories, knowledge and experiences.

But can any of this ever replace in-person interaction?


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