Friday, February 20, 2009

Bolting to the next phenomenon

I remember 1996 pretty well. I was 15 years old and it was the first time that I ever plugged a computer into a phone jack. I could of built a single-family home out of all the disks and excess packaging that America Online was sending almost daily. Oh, this was the time before I ever called it AOL. I thought that AOL was coined by computer geeks as a way to alienate the rest of us squares. What finally roped me in to check out this new online sensation? I was watching MTV as I did a lot in those days when they had original shows, and oh, videos. Yeah, yeah, by now that complaint probably has a place in the urban dictionary for it's over-use. Suck it, I still have fond memories of what it once was. So when I see Heidi Montag having a "spontaneous" dramatic moment in full makeup, perfect lighting, and sharply focused camera angles with whatever douche bag she is dating(I know it's Spencer), then I have to stop and weep a bit for the youth.

Anyhow, while watching MTV classic, I discovered that they could be found on America Online(I'm sticking by the full name). After clicking on the big orb logo that took 3 minutes to fully load and render, which, circa 1996, was pretty effing awesome, I was lead to a very disappointing set of links that really went nowhere. So I was now online. Somewhat. So now I go and troll around the application a bit...News. Check. Sports. Check. Entertainment. Check. Stock quotes. I'm 15, I don't care about stock quotes. But, what was all this www and .com business. When I actually did use the provided browser and used some www and .com combinations, it lead to some very boring very little on the eye candy pages. What was that about? Why did I need this stuff when I had America Online? With all it's cool tabs and graphics and chat windows and whatnot? What a sucker. Good job, AOL. I use AOL now because I will respect their name for one sentence. I guess that's two sentences. Damn. They got me again.

I did find one site, Bolt, which was my first journey into social networking. Don't bother checking the site, because according to Wikipedia, after shutting down and restarting a bunch of times, it finally went under in 2008. Bolt had what any of the more popular ones nowadays would rooms, discussion boards, photos and a friend list. Granted, I only had one friend that I knew in the "real" world, but I was a newbie at all of this.

Okay, so now it's 2005, since I can spare some details about my time spent in between, because, as well all know, our early 20s are uninteresting and not worth mentioning. Right? Right. I've got a grown-up job and joined the club of weekend warriors. I don't know why they call it weekend warrioring, when all we would do is get was drink our single, no-pressure lives away and do all the embarrassingly stupid things that we used to be allowed to do in the week. I think actual warriors would be quite offended how we sullied their names. At this point, TV is on it's deathbed for me. The Simpsons has gotten lame, Seinfeld is long gone, and re-runs of Sledge Hammer aren't appearing anywhere. All I have is 24 and Arrested Development, which despite my and thousands of other sarcastic, inside-jokey a-holes efforts and petition signing, cannot keep on the air. Now, those shows are definitely enough for any reasonable man. But, WHAT DO I DO WITH THE REST OF THE WEEK?

My friend, we'll call him Mark(which is his real name, so it works out), offers a solution. MySpace. I had heard of MySpace, but from what I understood up to that point, it was a way for bands coming up to make people aware that they existed and for their music to be heard. Mark explained to me how wrong I was. You could have games, cool backgrounds, surveys, pictures, and you could let everyone know that Weezer's Beverly Hills was your current favorite song, and have it play annoyingly loud every time they came to see your profile. Most importantly, Mark could be my MySpace friend. I was hesitant, if not adamant about not joining this new fad. I had enjoyed Bolt for a couple of months, but after a while, it got stale and my internet A.D.D. took me elsewhere.

Despite all that, I join and follow the steps. So now I'm on Myspace and can connect with many people from years past and see the types of movies they like, how much money they make and who they last kissed and whether or not they liked it. I enjoy it for a time...hell, it passes the time and I get to see people doing all of the MySpace picture poses , which I thought I was better than. I am not, as it turns out. But something is wrong...I have over 200 friends, and the latest person I befriended? Bacon. Who was the only MySpacer to avoid all the cliche' poses, but also fell into the MySpace hole, so maybe that's what we have in common, and should be friends after all. I think it was after Gay Skeletor recommended that I be friends with The Sun(not the newspaper, the gigantic star that provides light in the day) that I realized that I did not want to be on MySpace anymore. I wasn't getting in touch with people anymore...just seeing if I could get Lost the TV show to add me to their top 8. They didn't by the way...friendship over.

Then I started straying away from the default backgrounds and making some pretty elaborate flash codes my way of introducing people to my info. Then I have to pick the perfect song, which changes daily. If I feel like wearing my emotions on a sleeve and make sure everyone shows up to my pity-party, then I better put on some Coldplay. How about that I had a great time at a bar last night and need everyone to know how me and my friends got so messed up and don't remember much, set to Crazy Game of Poker by O.A.R.. If I want everyone to know that I have a very wide musical interest and like to say that I introduce people to bands they've never heard of, Vampire Weekend it is.(you know who they are now...because of me) I've also become quite adept at taking some nice camera phone photos and videos of various exploits in the non-digital life, then making sure that they are promptly posted on MySpace, which just embarrasses more than it entertains. I need more though.

I had remembered that I had used my college e-mail to join something called Facebook a little while ago. I thought I remembered that ONLY college students could access this social site, which was something that my pricky, elite attitude would probably embrace(I still remember telling some people I could throw them a Gmail invite, as it was invite only, and I was already in). So I went on there, gave the basic stock info, uploaded a picture(self-portrait with the arm cropped out) and was off and running. I started out slow, only finding a few friends here and there, and this 'People you May Know' tool was very nice. But, I thought it was just another MySpace and put the regular visits on the back burner.

Eventually I checked more and more...and heyyyy! No loud songs popping on. No sparkly backgrounds that make your relationship status blocked out. No more long tirades in the about me section that read like a mini-blog(shutup). This is what I thought it should be all about...networking and connecting with people. NOT surveys that I have to send to 50 people for good Karma. I really wanna know who creates those. Seriously. What is wrong with you?

Most of you reading this know how I am with Facebook. I'm on every day, and now that I have Digsby, it connects me to Facebook for chatting and all my updates in a convenient little icon bubble that pops up when you comment on the photo of me with my eyes closed that someone else decided to post. Or if you want to comment on my witty status(there are many). Okay, so it really doesn't have too much differences from earlier networking sites. It has however, given me the chance to talk to and see people that I have much in common with who otherwise might have been passed by with a friendly "hello", without all the distractions, but there are still a few. I realized through Facebook, that these sites don't need to remove you from real life, but more or less enhance it by keep in contact with those people that are already in it, and in turn make new contacts through association. I have made some new friends, though just simply by being linked from other web pages. My friend Kevin Tor, a comic from New Jersey had a video on Funny or Die that became Immortal...i.e. it got over 100,000 views. I say my friend like we grew up together or shared a ride in a cop car together at some point, but the truth is, I could count the number of months I've known him on one hand, and haven't actually met him in person. I followed a link to his Facebook page and we trade some wittiness back and forth. He's sharp with the wit which is why he remains my friend. Oh, you can view his video here...lets keep growing that view count. Free advert, there Kev. Do people call you Kev? See, I don't even know.

Ever since I first plugged that computer in all those years back, I have always embraced what the web has to offer, and been ready for the next best thing. I left out a lot in between America Online and Facebook. Such as one-click shopping, auction bidding, online banking, e-mails, instant messaging and storage networks that can be accessed anywhere in the world, to make a short list. The social networking aspect though has intrigued me the most as of late. It opens up a wide net of opportunities for keeping in touch and even new business models focused on reaching a target audience. I am on to other sites: LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon(to name a few), that only solidify the functionality of this whole thing. If you're not embracing the very effective ways that you can use any of this, then you should go use those 10 free hours that AOL gave you.

My name is Tim, and I am a social networker...and now...a blogger. Send this to 25 people in the next 10 minutes, or someone close to you will die.


  1. You can call me Kev. Welcome to the blogger world. Thanks for the free publicity. I guess it was free until your last paragraph and now it seems to have cost me my life. You better have gotten me 10 more views or I will have greatly overvalued my life.

  2. Sweet. You can call me T if you want. No one does or ever has, but don't let that stop you. Now that I'm a part of this blogger world, I dunno what to do...I think I want to post more but who will really care? Right now I have two followers and the other one is me. Hopefully I did get you more views. That way you could work me into a bit as the dude who Facebook stalked you and grew your fanbase.