Modern Internet-based social networking seems like a relatively recent phenomena. Yet, its roots can be traced back to basic human behavior.
Early humans organized themselves into social tribes. As technical knowledge and know-how got better, and written communication emerged, human social interaction also became more sophisticated. The printing press and postal systems supplemented the local tavern and other forms of in-person socialization. This was the beginning of a more sophisticated type of companionship. These early technologies marked the beginning stages of releasing the bonds of people only being able to interact, conduct business, and socialize with those they could be physically present with.
The telegraph machine could be looked upon as an early form of text messaging. People could conduct business at a distance, as well as send short personal notes to friends or family across great distances.
Then Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Early telephones were not that easy to use compared to what they evolved into, but they did mark a turning point that would profoundly change human interaction and ultimately cause the acquisition of knowledge to accelerate. The wired telephone enabled new, more efficient forms of social networking and interaction. It was a business device, yet it was also a pleasure device, that enabled people to socialize in much more sophisticated ways.
In the later decades of the 20th century, phone lines began to be used for more than simply voice communications. “POTS” or “plain old telephone lines” initially enabled the early stages of Internet growth. Looking back, those early websites had a social networking component built in all along. Business and pleasure were the driving forces.
The Internet quickly became much more sophisticated. High-speed Internet access and ever-cheaper data storage converged, leading to yet another turning point, enabling technologies such as podcasting, the reliable delivery of audio and video, etc. Social interaction among people was profoundly affected yet again.
The proliferation of the modern cell phone was another turning point that developed in parallel with the proliferation of the Internet. Being able to carry around a phone in one’s pocket was a terrific convenience, and has enabled profound efficiencies in the ways people interact. Since most of us alive today lived through that profound change, we cannot fully see what a significant turning point it is, or fully know how the efficiency will impact future generations.
Today we are living through yet another profound change – a type of convergence. The cell phone is morphing into the super smart phone that puts the Internet right in our pockets. Business and pleasure are still right there, driving the need for interaction.
In a way it’s fitting that these nifty, Internet-enabled, touch screen pocket computers many of us now carry around with us everywhere we go also happen to function as telephones.