Select Page

Social media is so prevalent that it’s a rare Internet-user that doesn’t spend some time every day on at least one social media platform. For many, social media is how they keep in touch with friends and family. For others, it’s how they stay caught up on the news. For still others, it’s how they conduct business. Social media, like it or not, is an intrinsic part of life online.

But how did it get started? Social media has actually been around since the early days of the Internet. Sure, it wasn’t social media as we know it now. There was no Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. But all of the social media platforms we use now were influenced by the ones that came before.

AOL’s Chat Rooms

Anyone who used the Internet in the 1990s remembers AOL. America Online helped to make Internet usage a common thing. Its chat room feature was one of the early forms of social media. Users could enter chat rooms under anonymous usernames, allowing them to reinvent themselves online, which encouraged creativity. 

In 1997, people spent more than a million hours chatting online on AOL chat rooms. That was also the year that AOL released AIM, allowing users to chat directly to other users for the first time. AOL closed its chat room feature in 2010, but the idea of chat rooms is still alive. Facebook’s Rooms feature is a callback to AOL’s defining social media contribution.

LiveJournal’s Blog

LiveJournal isn’t actually defunct. It’s still around but isn’t nearly as popular as it once was. It began in 1999 as a way for Internet users to keep in touch with friends who didn’t live close by. Its platform allowed users to write posts on anything from life updates to fanfiction. 

The fanfiction community grew so large on LiveJournal that it caused the decline of the platform after LiveJournal deleted thousands of fanfiction posts because of inappropriate content. This alienated the fanfiction community, leading to them leaving LiveJournal for other blogging platforms.

Even though LiveJournal doesn’t have the same relevancy it did in the early 2000s, the user behavior of posting and blogging has continued into other platforms.

MySpace’s Framework

For many Internet users, MySpace was their first social media platform. Even though MySpace lost users to Facebook, Twitter, and other, newer, social media platforms, it’s still around with a focus on sharing music. However, it had a much bigger impact on social media than its current popularity would suggest.

MySpace influenced how Internet users use social media when it comes to building a network. Before MySpace, social media was focused on expressing oneself or communication. MySpace reoriented the focus by providing a framework for building social circles. This framework is visible in the way people make friends or connections online, join groups, and follow each other.

The Past Influences the Present

These early social media platforms were very popular in their time. Some are still around, albeit much diminished from their former glory. Others have shut down and only exist in our memories. However, they still have an impact on social media to this day, informing how people use social media and what they expect out of their social media platforms.

The social media platforms we use now may not always be around, but they will have a distinct impact on the social media platforms of the future, which will try to meet users’ needs and wants based on how people use social media today.