tbt: comparing and contrasting the motivations of early internet users to social media users of today

Think/write about your own motivations for using social media and joining online communities. How are you motivations and goals similar to the early Wellites and virtual community members? How and why are they different?

It’s very difficult to compare the motivations in internet usage between its pioneers and present day social media users, because the internet itself was a very different environment than it is today. However, I think there are undoubtedly some fundamental similarities to our utilization of social media:

  • encountering new ideas and perspectives (even if they are generally in line with things we already believe)
  • become part of a community that engages with one another based on a similar interests
  • Sharing advice, reviews and support
  • Many platforms (especially Facebook) often serve as a pointer to other content similar to the WELL
  • Many people today find new social media platforms as symbols of alternative community, just like WELL, Usenet and other older forms of internet communication

Those fundamental reasons for using social media can no longer encompass what social media has become however, as transformations in internet technology and ideology,  have vastly increased the capabilities and number of users to the point that many of our reasons for using the internet were not even options for its early pioneers:

  • Maintaining relationships with almost everyone I know. Because most people weren’t online until the early 2000’s, this wasn’t even within the realm of possibility (see below)

  • Using the social media to maintain personal and professional brands. Online profiles didn’t exist to the extent that they do today when the internet was emerging, and could not be used for commercial purposes, so no one could try to sell their music or advertise their company to you, whereas this is the main business model for much of the internet and nearly all social media platform.
  • The internet is mainstream. It is no longer the countercultural, anti-establishment forum that it formerly was.

There are myriad other similarities and differences that I don’t have time to go into, but these seemed among the most prominent and relevant to me.