What A Short, Strange Trip It's Been

October 2, 2010

By Peter
It seems like only yester-decade that both academia and the “real world” frowned upon casual Internet use and social media tools. These were the days when our only form of online interaction was AIM, which had to suffice as our party-planning, gossip-slinging, awkward-flirting one-stop shop. Now, on the random occasion when I sign into my AIM account (Rebigulator360, named for The Simpsons' Professor Frink and his most famous theoretical invention), I feel like I'm peering through the windows of a boarded up house in which my friends and I used to party every weekend. My buddy list depressingly tells me that only three out of my 148 friends are online, and those three are either AIM bots or stubborn acquaintances who won't get with the times.
Then Facebook was introduced. At the time, you still needed a “.edu” e-mail address to register, and the access was limited to a few hundred universities around the country. It was even called Thefacebook, which goes to show your sweet, out-of-touch grandmother who always asks, “You're not on the Facebook, are you?” is factually correct, in her own senile sort of way.
You win this round, Grandma.
The number of users on Facebook exploded quickly at my beloved Roger Williams University, and within a few weeks of its introduction, most -- if not all -- of my friends were on it. We were quickly uploading all of our stupid pictures and making groups or planning events for the weekend. (I remember I once invited a lady friend to an event titled “Pants Party… A Party in the Pants.” Anchorman was big at the time. I won't apologize).
The students' love of Facebook quickly got the attention of the administration and announcements were made about not using it on school computers and making sure it didn't detract from our studies. We could tell the teachers and the administration hated Facebook and everything for which it stood. I even had a teacher foolishly tell me it was nothing more than a fad that would surely be forgotten soon. In hindsight, I must say she was mistaken.
Nowadays, any university that doesn't have at least one Facebook page is considered just as out of touch as your grandmother, who now asks why everyone keeps talking about The Twitter. Most schools have different Facebook pages for each of their majors. All of a sudden, any social media movement that gains traction amongst students and young professionals perks up the ears of business leaders and universities around the world. Twitter, which used to be considered a less useful, lamer version of LiveJournal, is now an invaluable resource for breaking news, celebrity gossip and growing trends. It helped that early-adopting hipsters ran out of ways to express their angst in 140 characters or less, paving the way for thought leaders to leverage Twitter as a platform for large-scale information dissemination.
The point of all of this is that whereas once society would scoff at anything in which the 18-24-year-old demographic showed interest, now we (sadly, I am a dinosaur at 26) pick up any trend we can get our old, arthritic hands on as long as those damn kids are into it. Now more than ever, young people influence how the professional world conducts business. Hell, even Tom Brady changed his haircut to look more like Justin Bieber. (Note, I only added that name to this post so I would show up on 95 percent of Google searches. Also, Lady Gaga, Glee, Katy Perry. Take that, SEO!). Frankly I'm just excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for social media platforms. Whatever happens, I'll try my best not to angrily shake my cane in the air as I mutter about the good old days when men were men and Thefacebook wasn't full of Farmville requests.

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