Although places like facebook, mixi, twitter, and the soon to be forgotten myspace are probably what people around here might think of when the subject of online social media comes up, there's actually some things that could also be considered as part of this concept. My first interactions with this were IRC (internet relay chat) back in the '90s. I also had something that used voice chat but you pretty much talked to someone random and if you weren't lucky you didn't speak the same language.
I think a common misconception is that the word "media" means "press." It actually means "a way of communication" (dictionary.com).
So, any social way of communication falls into this category. The
current concept pretty much came as a replacement for good old fashioned
water cooler gossip and expanded into people sharing their lives with
each other. Although early e-mail and chat rooms are the roots of the
current social media concept, I believe that it was gaming that really
made it explode. The first real social online game was Ultima Online.
This opened the way for Everquest, the first explosively large MMORPG
(Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). What made these games
stand out was that they were effectively the combination of a game and a
chat room. Now, sitting at your computer playing games didn't mean a
lack of human interaction. In fact, this human interaction was a key
selling point of the game. What ended up happening is that people ended
up completely hooked on these games. At pretty much any time, you can
always have someone to talk to. For people who are shy, agoraphobic, or
lonely it lets them meet others without all of that seeing each other's
faces that always gets in the way.
more notes to come later...maybe some jokes as well