Social Media: How did we get here?

When looking at social media and the popularity of it, we begin to wonder how did we get here? Why is this simple notion of communicating online such an enormous topic of conversation? There are really two overarching themes that have molded this level of communication that creates the perfect storm of communication called “social media.”

Human Nature

It’s in our nature as humans to be social. From the dawn of time to the end of time, we will bond together with individuals, groups, and communities, to socialize about life, the environment around us, and other activities that appeal to us. This need and want to socialize will never change, but what does change is the Human Behavior as it pertains to communication. Our communication behavior shifts every time there is a shift in communication channels. The nature of socializing is, and will forever be inherent, but our communication behavior will always shift with enhanced communication channels. Looking at the past 100 years of communication, we can see multiple shifts in this communication behavior. The reason behind these? Technology.


With the advent and influx of new communication technologies in our day-to-day lives, we swiftly change the way we communicate. Let’s take a look at some communication technologies that have emerged and changed our communication behavior over the past 100 years:

The Printing Press: Able to spread messages to millions of people across many locations.

Telephone: Allowing us to continue relationships and conversations in real time without the face to face interactions. We started expanding our relationships to farther and farther away geographically as well.

Instant Messenger/Email: A little more recently, we are able to communicate with multiple people in near real time via electronic communication. We can hold relationships with more people spanning the globe. We were also introduced to “dynamic time” communication where we can send a message and allow the recipient to respond on their own schedule.

Enter…Social Media

With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, we can now have and hold communications online via various platforms. This technology allows us to create, gather, and share relevant information at a speed that has never been seen. With the integration of real-time and dynamic-time communication we can monitor what’s happing in our social groups and engage in the information that is the most relevant to us.

With social media, we are taking a new step in what a relationship can be. Instead of people connecting with people, we can now connect with the small groups, affinity organizations, brands, products, and companies that help make our lives what they are. This type of communication we become more involved in the things that matter in our lives.

As we travel through the past of communication and the behavior and technologies around that communication, we see some great shifts and advances in what is possible within relationships; an amazing transition with the human nature to socialize as the driving force. Building and continuing relationships has never been easier with the integrated mix of real-time and dynamic-time communication if done correctly. We are social beings and want to communicate. So next time you’re talking about your social media strategy, ask yourself, are we using this technology to enhance our human nature need to socialize or simply exploiting it.