I was browsing through some older issues of ONLINE, ones from the mid-1990s, trying to fact check some dates that various companies acquired other companies (yes, this does have to do with an article in the upcoming September/October issue of the magazine), when I realized how my identity has changed. Back then, in the contact section of my column, The Dollar Sign, I listed my phone number, my DialMail number (16663), my MCIMail number (3397112), my DataMail id (ojala), my CompuServe number (71571,43), and my Well name (mojala). To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have any of those anymore. Some of the companies behind them no longer exist. What those contact points had in common was the one-way communication model. There wasn’t much flexibility, or interactivity. They were subscription-based silos. I remember being delighted when I could have one email address that everybody could use, without paying and with much greater flexibility.
In today’s socially networked world, we’ve taken a bit of a step backwards. Now we’ve got an identity at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and numerous other social media sites. Those identities may be expressed slightly, or completely, differently. Twitter handles can be particularly fanciful. Would I intuitively know that Jane Doe on Facebook is Doefull on Twitter (I made that up, so don’t go looking for Jane Doe or Doefull).
Certainly there is more interactivity, more bi-directionality, inherent in the notion of posting to Twitter or updating your status on Facebook. But when you get to the direct messaging portions of social network sites, you’re right back to the silos of 15 years ago. Five years ago I could just check email to see whether I had received important messages. Now I have to check in multiple places for messages.
And then there’s my kids, who pretty much disdain all that social media that we older folk find so fascinating. They’re more likely to text.