From AIM to Now

My thoughts and feelings towards social media have changed throughout my life.  I clearly remember the first time I engaged in an early form of social media/networking.  It was 1998, I was 11 years old entering the 6th grade.  On the first day of school, my friends could not stop talking about AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).  I had no clue what AIM was, but had to find out.  From my friends’ description, I thought that AIM was just chat room that you could join and talk with other people.  This really did not interest me since my experience with chat rooms was mostly comical and somewhat creepy.  Even though I was skeptical, I went home that day and had my brother install AIM on our computer.  I created the username ImJustJoking54, which was a pun of my name Joseph King and my soccer number.  I was late to join the AIM craze, but quickly became savvy like my friends.  I had an extensive buddy list, was able to chat with multiple friends at once, and created deep away messages including song lyrics to spark the interest of a girl that I had a crush on at the time.

away-messae

If you asked the 11 year-old Joe what his initial thoughts on social media was he would say that it made it easier to connect with his friends.  I had gained a freedom that I previously did not have.  I could speak to multiple people at any time and express myself though my profile and away messages.  AIM was not all rainbows and sunshine.  I can also remember the stress and fights that AIM created.  Messages that were misinterpreted would lead to broken friendships.  I vividly remember a peer logging on to someone else’s screen name to impersonate one my friends.  The impersonator then shared the conversation with other people.  That interaction did not end well to say the least.

My next significant experience with social media was the summer before attended undergrad.  It was 2005 and I was working as a camp counselor. I was talking to one of my colleagues about college roommates and she said that she was Facebook friends with her roommate and floor mates.  Similar to AIM, I was unfamiliar with Facebook, went home that night, and created a profile.  Having a Facebook account decreased the anxiety of entering a large university not knowing anyone.  I was able to connect with my roommate and other students before class started.  Throughout my undergrad, I used Facebook to meet new friends, organize a university soccer club, and coordinate social events.  Additionally, I could stay connected with friends from high school.  At this point, my relationship with social media switched from communication and expression to creating connections and collaborations.  I was able to create a social network.  Facebook also had it cons.  In college, I saw many of my friends become addicted to Facebook.  They would repeat the cycle of creating and deleting their Facebook page because they would become so engrossed in looking at profiles.  Personally, I spent many hours procrastinating tests and projects by logging onto Facebook.  I found that if I wanted to be productive I had to set a limit on the time I spent on social media.  To this day, I still have to set that limit.

After I finished graduate school, I worked as a school counselor at an elementary school in Dorchester.  During this time, I witnessed how damaging social media can be to children.  Students as young as six had access to smartphones and social media.  By having this access, they were exposed to content that no six-year-old should not be exposed to.  I had multiple meetings with parents where I explained the dangers of smartphone access for children and how to create parental controls on smartphones.  Additionally, cyber bulling was very prevalent in my schools.  Students used Kik, a mobile chat and social media application, to communicate with each other.  Kik was very popular because users could be anonymous.  This made it very challenging to identify who the bully was and how to react to the situation.  The conversations that I read were terrible, and the worst part was that it was very difficult to stop.  My experiences working in the school has led to the formation of my opinion that children should have limited to no access to social media.

My current feelings towards social media are mixed.  Two months ago, I deleted my Facebook account due to the proliferation of fake-news.  I could not logon to my account without seeing multiple friends or acquaintances ranting about news that was biased or fake.  In a sense, all news is biased, but some of the information being shared was downright incredulous.  What used to be a place where I could connect with my friends and find interesting articles became a source of constant frustration.  I am avid podcast listener and recommend anyone who is interested in learning more about fake-news to listen to a Planet Money’s “Finding the Fake-News King” .  The hosts of the episode are able to track down the author of popular fake-news articles and interview him.  What I was surprised to see is how much money an author of fake-news can make.  The business of fake-news is so lucrative that I do not see it stopping.

fake-news

As I enter this class I understand that social media has its pros and cons.  That has been the reoccurring theme throughout my life.  I am currently a Program Manager for City Connects at Boston College.  We have just begun to utilize social media to tell our story and reach more funders and school districts.  I am excited to learn more through this class and help strengthen the social media outreach for our organization.

6 comments

  1. Nice post. I, too, have a love-hate relationship with social media (particularly during the election season). While we question its value, though, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to its power. I’ll be interested to hear what insights from this class you bring back to your program.

  2. Like you, my first interaction with social media was with AIM in 6th grade. It’s astounding to me that kids as young as even 3 or 4 years old have such easy access to so many different social media platforms. I can only imagine some of the stories you have of kids from the elementary school and their interactions with social media. In my opinion, with all of the information and capability of the Internet and social media, there should be strict enforcement over limiting a child’s access.

  3. I really liked this post, Joe. Your experience in the elementary school system is really interesting. I share your concerns about cyber-bullying and exposure to inappropriate content. My understanding of this issue is really only what I have heard in the media or through friends with kids. I agree that it would probably be better for kids to have limited or no access to social media, but I don’t know how it can be achieved.

    I found it interesting that you deleted your Facebook account – I also took a break from Twitter and Facebook after the election, I was completely burnt out by the hatred that could be found online. I think Facebook have a lot to answer for when it comes to the issue of Fake News – I wish they would take steps to verify media accounts, or provide some kind of grading system. I also have an issue with the number of fake accounts that are used to promote and share these Fake News websites.

    Thanks for the podcast recommendation!

  4. I found this post very interesting because it is similar to the way in which I got into social media. I do not, however, relate to how you were saying many people got addicted to social media. My experience is a little different. Because I was so young when social media was taking off, it was something that was monitored by my parents. So from a young age, I had a limited amount of time I could go on Facebook or AIM. I feel as if these habits became ingrained in me and even as I became more independent, I was able to curb my procrastination. I do commend you for deleting your Facebook page because, though I do not believe I am addicted, I do not think I could delete my Facebook simply because of the ease of communication, collaboration, and connection it provides.

  5. terencenixdorf · ·

    I can connect with your post on so many different levels. My first thought about AIM was that it was definitely creepy and it also reminded me of my first experience playing Xbox Live where I told my older brother that I wouldn’t share an account with him because I thought playing with random people was definitely weird. Ten years later, I’m on Twitter retweeting random people that I find funny – with their real name and my real name, not an Xbox Gamertag. It’s crazy how social media has progressed in such a short span of time. Also, I completely agree that children are being started with devices far too young.

    On another note, I also wish that I shared the willpower that you had to delete your Facebook. The clearly ridiculous news articles that are shared on Facebook has annoyed me to no end the past 6 months but I haven’t been able to fully give it up because I enjoy using it for other things. Guess that’s the addiction of social media – you want to hate it but you fully can’t.

  6. I thought it was interesting that as I was reading about your experience with AIM, it actually took me a little bit of time before I recalled what that even was. I think it’s really interesting how quickly things seem to move in the digital world. 1998 was really not that long ago, but digital has really evolved so much since then. Additionally, I really relate to your mixed feelings with social media.

%d bloggers like this: