Were We Really Living Without Social Media 10 Years Ago?

How many times a day do you check your social media profiles? I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain compulsion that drives me to Facebook about once an hour. I glance at Twitter every half hour or so. I’m checking LinkedIn throughout the week, and I’m pinning new content to Pinterest as it applies (which is quite regularly).

Social media addiction? Overload? Well, maybe. But if that’s the case, I’m certainly not alone. Actually, many would say this is pretty standard for 20-somethings (okay, okay, I’m almost a 30-something, but even that age group is pretty active on these sites).

It seems unreal to me to think back ten years ago before any of this existed.

That’s right. Flash back with me for a minute to April 2002.

It was my freshman year of college and the biggest online interaction tool was AIM. (Does anyone even use AIM anymore?)

In April 2002, MySpace, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest didn’t exist. Even LinkedIn, the oldest of the current major social networks, wouldn’t be founded for eight more months. (And it wouldn’t launch until May 2003.)

Social media has become such an integral part of our lives (and our business conversions) that it’s hard to imagine life before Mark Zuckerberg, Larry the Twitter Bird, and even Tom’s MySpace picture (which, by the way, he still uses… on Google+).

In the grand scheme of things, these social media giants are still babies. Check this out.


• LinkedIn is founded


• LinkedIn is launched
• MySpace is founded
• 10/23: Mark Zuckerberg creates Facemash, Facebook’s predecessor, in his dorm room as a sophomore at Harvard


• MySpace launches

• Facebook launches
• MySpace reaches one million users


• Twitter is founded
• Twitter is launched
• MySpace becomes the most-visited website
• Facebook launches open registration, meaning that it’s not just for colleges anymore


• Twitter gains momentum with its appearance at South by Southwest


• As Facebook closes the traffic gap, MySpace reaches its peak


• Ben Silbermann founds Pinterest


• Pinterest launches as a closed beta. Numbers rise very slowly, which founder Ben Silbermann has attributed to the fact that it’s different from what people were used to seeing, which is text-based updates in real-time


• Beginning in January, Twitter would play a pivotal role in the Arab Spring, helping to organize groups of people for rallies and protests
• MySpace lays off half of its employees
• MySpace goes up for sale
• 6/28: Google launches the beta version of its social network, Google+, to great hype and anticipation
• 6/29: MySpace is sold to Specific Media and Justin Timberlake for around $35 million
• 9/20: Google+ becomes available to everyone with no invitation necessary
• People start to notice Pinterest. Since September, the site’s unique visitors have increased by an unthinkable 429%
• A Nielsen Media Research study reports that Facebook is the second most-visited website in the US.


• 1/19: Google+ surpasses 90 million users. Impressive, given Todd Wasserman’s Mashable report that G+ users spend just 3.3 minutes per month on the site compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook
• 2/1: Facebook files for IPO and speculation begins as to whether it will go with NYSE or NASDAQ, as well as when the IPO will be available
• Since November, Pinterest’s monthly uniques have doubled, and they continue to grow

• Pinterest now drives more traffic than MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.

As you see, it really wasn’t until the middle of the last decade that social media started to come into its own and shape Web 2.0 as we know it.

If there’s anything we can learn here, it’s that social media undulates.

MySpace and Facebook launched just one month apart, but Facebook has grown to approximately 850 million users while MySpace continues to fade into oblivion. Do you know anyone who still uses MySpace? Probably not.

Toward the end of 2011, Facebook’s growth stalled. While most of this is probably attributed to normal patterns, some of it could be attributed to Facebook’s constant changes. Many users have recently expressed dissatisfaction with the site and opted to deactivate their accounts. Some even moved over to Facebook’s competitor, Google+, instead.

Though Facebook continues to be the most popular social networking site, while its growth stalled, Pinterest flourished. Why? It’s something just different enough to become the hottest social network of 2012.

Not only are creative types loving Pinterest, but businesses are fast learning how to to use it as a conversion tactic.

Twitter has maintained its success, largely because of its versatility. Though users are limited to 140 characters, uses for the service range from quick updates to family and friends (truly microblogging) to participating in realtime conversations and hashtag-fueled Twitter chats with people around the world. It’s truly a place to connect with others.

And don’t discount LinkedIn, either. Though it may not be social in the sense that Facebook is, professionals continue to use the site regularly for networking.

This is the stuff our digital lives are made of, and we forget how new it all really is.

So tell me: what’s your favorite social network?

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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  1. Dave Paul says:


    There were many of us using “social media” prior to 2002 … in fact, many of us were using “social media” before you were born (working backwards from when you were in college in 2002). It just wasn’t called that.

    Dave Paul
    Employed by CompuServe Information Service 1986-1997

    A former vice president of CompuServe suggested I share this with you. It may alter your perspective somewhat.




    • And you’ve hit the nail on the head Dave – people weren’t calling it that. Thanks for the extra resources but when people are looking for the “history of social media” they are rarely looking for Friendster or the items that came before.

      Beyond that, the general public was not involved in a two way conversation. Your source says itself, “At the beginning of the 90s, internet access was available only to those with legitimate with university / government / military connections (and to hackers). But around 1994 or 1995, private internet service providers (ISPs) began to pop up in most major metro areas in the United States.” And you can’t tell me that the vast majority of people were using the internet for networking purposes anything like they do today before 2002.

      So while you are technically accurate, I think we can both agree that the spirit of this post is true. I for one think Renee did a fantastic job putting this together 🙂
      Amie was just talking about…Fire (Most of) Your Sales Team – Get Inbound With Content MarketingMy Profile

      • Sandy Trevor says:

        Actually, millions of people from the “general public” were online years before the Internet became available beyond government and universities. Across the globe (USA, UK, France, Japan, etc), networks used internationally standard protocols that predated TCP/IP, such as X.25, to link users to servers at CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, Genie, Delphi, and perhaps biggest of all, Minitel in France.

        • I feel the need to step in here and say that I never intended for this post to be read as implying that no social media at all existing prior to 2002. That would be incredibly naive of me. I’m sorry if that’s how it came across. Because I used the intro to talk about Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (referring to them as the current social media giants), I thought it was clear that these were the ones I was choosing to focus on in this post. Sorry for the confusion, all! 🙂
          Renee DeCoskey was just talking about…Giving Feedback: The Art of Constructive CriticismMy Profile

          • Haha! I know Renee – not sure how we got down this rabbit hole. I thought your post was very clearly about social media as it is seen today. And I was just trying to mitigate Mr. Paul by pointing out his own source mentions the lack of saturation of these tools prior to 2002.

            Sometimes you just can’t win 🙂 I wish I had enough time to nit pick this to death but I don’t 🙂

            In the end, Renee – your post is awesome and again, it is accurate in the spirit it was intended. You didn’t do anything wrong – you’re awesome sauce 🙂
            Amie was just talking about…Best Buy CEO Steps Down: Is the Writing on the Wall for Brick and Mortar?My Profile

  2. Melissa — I totally understand 🙂 I try to keep a low profile on Facebook because I see it as just a place to keep in touch with my family and closest friends and not much beyond that. I, too, still have a MySpace… I think. I haven’t logged in for 3 years or so probably. But Twitter… well, I love Twitter to pieces! 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!
    Renee DeCoskey was just talking about…Giving Feedback: The Art of Constructive CriticismMy Profile

  3. I still have my MySpace account. While I don’t visit it often, I do still use it occasionally, largely to listen to music. I’m not crazy about Facebook, but I have to use it to participate in many free sample giveaways and sweepstakes. I don’t really care to reconnect with former classmates, but Facebook is also a good way to connect with many animal rescue sites. Ive never used LinkedIn. I’m a Twitter girl at heart!

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