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On the Changing Face of Social Media

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say we live our lives online. Sure, people still go to friends’ houses, out to eat, to movies and live shows. But, for all intents and purposes, online is where life happens.

Maybe we aren’t inside the internet, doing what we do in any physical sense of the matter. But we communicate, network, come together in the sphere of the online world. This is where the magic happens.

Which, of course, has led to the question being asked more and more: how do we make sense of our situation? Is there any way to escape this spectre that haunts our every move? And if so, how do we get there in a way that allows us to fully recharge and return with fresh eyes and a fresh mind?

In fact, just earlier one of my dearest friends posted (ironically, on Facebook) about congregating without needing social media. If the sad truth of having to utilize social media to find a way to skirt its influence doesn’t prove how ubiquitous and domineering the technology is, I don’t know what else could.

They mentioned that it’s a necessary evil, in ways. It leaves us feeling depressed and drained. At the same time, how do you get away from it to do the things we used to take for granted?

I am old enough to recall an era in which it wasn’t an unspoken requirement to lean on the power of things like Facebook and Snapchat to meet like-minded souls. Even dating apps were still kind of a niche thing. Livejournal was popular (for a time), which then transitioned into MySpace.

But it was a different time, and Facebook wasn’t as it is now. You had to be affiliated with a college, which still more or less meant you were meeting face-to-face with your peers. Your “friends” were your genuine friends.

Those days are gone.

More modern attempts at novel social networks like MeWe have stayed more or less fringe, thus far. Even places like Discord require one to be invited. They lack the accessibility for a casual person like me, which may prove to be their major hindrance.

I suppose I’m straying a bit off-topic. The question of how do we, the drained, exhausted ones, regain control over a situation that has run amok? The answer might indeed be services such as Discord. The chances for these voice over internet protocol (abbreviated to VoIP) servers to become more widespread and influential seem slim. Currently, they are relegated to the domain of gamers.

Truth-be-told, this might be the solution: a modern spin on the bulletin board systems of days past. Abbreviated to BBS, these were, in a way, a precursor to today’s social media. According to Wikipedia, a BBS “is a computer server running software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program.”

Once connected, a user could perform a variety of tasks, such as uploading and downloading, as well as message boards and direct chatting, in some cases. They were a crucial element of the Wild West days of burgeoning internet culture, and a predecessor of social media, especially. As of 2016, 373 BBSes still function, according to an article in The Atlantic.

So maybe this is the key that will save us. Many reports that these dial-up BBSes have an intimacy and a warmth unmatched in today’s social media. And I’d venture to say they’re onto something. I may be old enough that I didn’t log onto Twitter in my crib, but I’m also not old enough to remember the bulletin boards.

But from what I can say of MySpace and college-era Facebook, they may have a point. It’s this digital interconnectedness – and the knowledge that whoever you let into your life will more than likely have dovetailing interests, as opposed to being only marginally similar – that allowed to surf without leaving with an overwhelming sense of depression.

Or maybe everything I’ve written here is bull. Maybe there is no solution. Maybe we have to take it as it is and sacrifice our mental health to meet new folks. The world is becoming increasingly digital, and we haven’t yet adapted to it. Of course, there will be growing pains!

But for those of us who want to meet people who like indie rock, silent films, or rare and strange cuisine – we may have to reconsider bulletin board systems.

Although I suppose Discord works just as well, probably better, to be honest. From the looks of it, BBSes won’t be around forever. As the saying goes, everything must come to pass.