Online social media experiences
Feb. 10, 2014
by Mark Ollig

Early this morning, while writing this column, I paused and looked out the living room window.

I shook my head as I stared at the frost-covered thermometer.

The temperature was, once again, below zero.

Unquestionably, this has got to be one of the longest cold streaks we’ve had to endure in quite some time.

But I digress.

Last week, Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary.

In February 2009, I was convinced to join this social media site.

Before Facebook, yours truly had been socializing online using the MySpace social media site.

The person I give the credit to for convincing me to join Facebook was my oldest son, who at the time, was preparing for his trip to Italy.

“What would be a good way to stay in contact with you?” I asked him. “Go to Facebook and request to add me as a ‘friend’,” he told me.

“What about using MySpace?” I suggested.

“No, you want to get on Facebook,” he replied confidently.

And so, I took the plunge and signed up with Facebook, and became my son’s “Facebook friend.”

As a parent, I try not to (most of the time) post anything embarrassing on my son’s Facebook wall.

I recall navigating myself around Facebook five years ago; it reminded me of when I was a member of the dial-up online community called “Prodigy.” I can hear many of you out there saying; “Yes, I remember using that back in the day.”

Prodigy began in 1984 (has it really been 30 years?), and by 1990, it had grown to over 465,000 subscribers, making it the second-largest online service behind CompuServe.

I still have a few of those complimentary, white porcelain Prodigy coffee mugs, which are shaped like a computer terminal screen and keyboard.

By 1992, yours truly had gotten the virtual online community “bug,” and started my own dial-up computer bulletin board service I called; “WBBS,” which stood for Winsted Bulletin Board Service.

In 1994, with the World Wide Web operating over the Internet, dial-up Prodigy subscribers were accessing content on the Web via Prodigy’s Internet connection.

Prodigy provided a “gateway” for us to access the Internet. I regularly used this social media site for my Internet access during the early ‘90s.

I also belonged to the America Online (AOL) dial-up site. AOL was started in 1985.

During the late ‘90s and 2000s, I was mostly using AOL.

As technology improved, many of us found it no longer necessary to use our regular home telephone line and modem in our computers for dialing into online services like Prodigy, in order to access the Web and the Internet.

By the mid-90s, we began installing on our computers web browsers such as: NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) Mosaic, Internet Explorer, and Netscape Navigator to browse the Web, and were using dial-up services, cable modems, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), and other types of high-speed Internet connections obtained from the telephone and cable companies.

Jumping ahead to 2009, I became very active in my Facebook online community. I was (and still am) stopping in daily to update my status, post photos, read or leave personal messages, and to share and catch up on the latest news and goings-on with family and friends.

During early 2009, I was praising the many advantages of Facebook with former Herald Journal & Enterprise Dispatch editor Lynda Jensen, whom I spoke with frequently while writing my columns.

I recall talking with her over the phone and via email saying “how much fun it would be for you to get on Facebook.” I finally ended up convincing Lynda to get her own Facebook account.

Once Lynda got her new account established on Facebook, we moved our playful back-and-forth bantering onto it.

For a little over a year, we both posted photos and links to interesting stories on our Facebook walls, and shared humorous and witty comments using its status and text chat program.

Lynda said because of Facebook, she was able to find her best friend from college, her pastor, a former co-worker, and other people she knew.

She even wrote a couple columns about her adventures with Facebook.

Lynda’s March 2, 2009 column is titled: “Dragged into the 21st Century” (I think yours truly inspired this title). It can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-Facebook1.

The following week, she had written: “Hacking my way through the digital jungle on Facebook.” This column is located at: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-Facebook2.

Of course, the sites themselves, these “virtual digital communities” such as Facebook, have no real wood or brick-and-mortar buildings, or tables and chairs in them. They are, however, easily accessible online socializing venues where we can take solace interacting with real people.

Sites such as Facebook (and similar), have many advantages to them; being able to search for and make contact with former classmates and co-workers, friends and family, keeping up with the latest buzz on our favorite celebrities, sports teams, and, for knowing the latest happenings with the businesses we patronize.

Oh, I still miss the days of dialing into a local computer bulletin board service (BBS), and engaging in the solidarity of text chatting with the regulars, but I’m happy to see today’s virtual online community is very much alive and well.

Let’s use it to create lasting memories, and to learn, share information, and enjoy the humor, camaraderie, and playful banter we experience there with our friends and family.

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