Years ago, I remember my niece visiting from Japan organizing a visit using Facebook... which is great if you’re all on Facebook and I seem to recall that was a time that we got some new people (like my father) to pay attention to Facebook. Win for Facebook, and actually a win for us because the whole family got together in a limited time frame and we all basically knew what was going on (which for a family holiday gathering is amazing).
Fast forward to this season and a slightly different story – Markie and I wanted to have Friendsgiving at the last minute and our friends aren’t necessarily Facebook friends, but we did have mobile numbers for everyone… so we started a group text thread. Instant social media platform that no company owns.
Our friends, who aren’t necessarily friends with each other, were suddenly able to chat with each other with no fuss. Who’s bringing salad? Who’s bringing dessert? Can anyone pick up so-and-so on the way over? And the flurry of messages the next day with thank-yous and had-a-good-times.
It’s a little-known fact that Twitter was started a group text messaging platform. Really. Phones at the time didn't necessarily let you send a text to a whole group of people at once, so they built a way you could subscribe to a group or create your own private groups. Twitter’s 140-character limit wasn’t for some sort of forced haiku structure, but because SMS (short messaging service) was limited to 160 characters. Twitter reserved the other 20 characters for their own internal routing.
The idea was to have a way to get little check-ins and messages from your friends either on your mobile (which at the time mobile companies were raking in huge profits from 10-20 cent per message charges) or just use the web and avoid all those pesky txt charges.
Since 2005 however, we’ve called out the mobile providers on the whole “making money on nothing” and pretty much everyone has unlimited texting these days. (Not that they didn’t make up for it in other areas.). And our phones are easier to manage with things like groups and blackout times, so you don’t have to deal with 2am drunk conversations on a thread you didn’t remember you were on (but that’s a different story).
My main point is that we sort of lost sight of what we wanted from Social Media – the medium isn’t the social part, connecting with other people is the social part. Our social circles grow and shrink and change depending on what we do, some people might actually be interested in a picture of that polenta you’re having for lunch, but a group of engineers in Menlo Park don’t need to sell that to General Foods.
I figure there’s still a place for Facebook, but honestly we have a much better tool in our hands right now – good old fashioned text messaging.