The internet is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to humanity in the 21st century. The disgusting, unseemly and embarrassing qualities of people are on display for smartphones, tablets and computers to exhibit. On the other hand, the thoughtful, intelligent and giving traits of humanity are also for all to see. The internet is great for connecting people and allowing access to information but has also become the greatest distraction in the digital age. We have so much information at our fingertips, but we seem more ignorant than ever before. People are more connected through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. They all offer unique ways to interact with others and some are more popular than others because of it. The lifespan of social networks are fascinating. We’ve lived through the rise and fall of AIM and Myspace. We’ve witnessed the dominance of Facebook, and we’ve watched Instagram magnify the importance of images. I’m here to rank the six best and worst, looking at each of them at the peak of their relevance and popularity.
The newest of the bunch, SnapChat is probably at its peak right now… and its pretty lackluster. It seems to be the social network of choice for the younger crowd. Maybe I’m a little too old but SnapChat hasn’t offered much in terms of interactivity. I’ve seen glimpses of excellence. I follow some people that are very creative with the tools they have, and the time they’re allotted. Others do a great job making me feel left out. Obviously, some Snaps have spread across Twitter and text messages. A certain someone twerking, or Community SnapChats like URIs gain the attention of casual users. Mainly SnapChat is full of Selfies and a terrible instant messenger. The best friend feature got plenty of people in trouble, but nothing on the level of the Top 8. It has its perks and it’s very enjoyable at times, but maybe there’s something I’m missing.
Instagram is weird. With over 300 million users and 1 billion photos uploaded I feel like it should be higher on the list. It has all trappings of a great hub for connections and networking with friends, but there is something holding it back. Maybe it’s how static commenting on pictures feel. There is less talking and more liking and that might be to Instagram’s detriment. It has had great influence culturally. “Selfies” and “Filters” have all become a part of the lexicon and idea of taking a picture has changed forever because of The Gram. Its influence is widespread (Selfie Sticks?), but actually using it is pretty boring. You like pictures, people like your picture, you look at pictures but don’t like them, you stalk people’s pages. Wash, rinse, repeat. At its peak, it has been impactful, but not as fun or engaging as any of the others on the list. Nothing really worth Double Tapping.
Oh how quickly things change. Facebook was created in 2004 and was only open to Harvard students, soon it expanded to include other schools, and then Justin Timberlake came along and the site blew up. I’m joking, but the site went from a small social hub to the biggest social networking website in history with over 864 Million unique followers. Facebook is the connective tissue for friends and family all over the planet. Young and old people use the site to share news, pictures and keep long distance relationships alive. Now Facebook is a publicly traded company that owns other companies like Instagram and Oculus. Facebook is very different in 2015. Everyone has one, but young people rarely go on the site unless they’re connecting with family. I might go on Facebook once a week and that’s being nice. This wasn’t the case in 2009. As the masses were moving away from Myspace, they flooded FB with scandalous images and statuses that were much too personal. At its peak, Facebook was the go-to website for young people to connect. Checking feeds, reading comments, messaging, looking at photos or playing UNO. Facebook is only rivaled by Twitter in ways to interact with friends. It’s difficult to remember Facebook at that time, but it was a phenomenon, we were all on it, and it ushered in a new age of social networking.
This is a bit controversial. Many people would place this on top for nostalgia sake, but AIM takes a hit because it lacks variety in interactions. You could Message others and create away messages… that was it. I think what made AIM so special was the time we were using it as opposed to the service itself. We enjoyed it despite its limitation. We were young and ridiculous. GroupChats came alive through AIM, Away Messages were creative and informative, and plenty of relationships grew from the service. AIM is a situation where we turned lemons into lemonade. We took something simple, and often broken, and made the absolute best of it. The Sidekick allowed AIM to explode in popularity become the biggest instant messaging service for a short time. It was great while it lasted, but it doesn’t touch the top 2 on our list.
Ratchet. At its most popular Myspace was the epitome of ratchet… and I don’t ever use that word. I say it as a massive compliment in this context. Myspace was full of crazy, irresponsible, horny, misguided, insecure young people. It was beautiful. Your page was solely your own and it was personalized more than any other social network page or profile. Going to a person’s URL was like entering their reality. You saw the world as they saw it with music that was the soundtrack to their lives at that moment. It was all crucial. The infamous Top 8 was more important than actual friendships at times. Showing someone’s page some “love” made all the difference. People got on computers and went straight to Myspace. It gave you a platform and let you do whatever you wanted with it. It let us into the lives of celebrities. I remember stalking Lupe Fiasco’s Myspace page and discovering Wale for myself through his page. As of April 2014 the site has 1 million users, but between 2005 and 2008 it was the biggest social network service in the world. At one point in 2006, the site got more visitors than Google. It was eventually overtaken by Facebook, but it was ultimately better because it was the Wild West compared to Facebook’s sanitized sameness. It opened up a whole new universe on the internet and it all started with Tom, the very average looking guy, with the iconic pose. Myspace started everything, revolutionized connectivity and introduced us to the internet in a whole new way.
140 characters. That is it. Just looking at the tools of it all, Twitter has very little tricks up its feathers. Somehow, through the ingenuity of the users and coders the site has become the greatest social network of them all. I believe Twitter, along with Facebook, will remain relevant for years to come because of its ease of use, consistency, and raw entertainment value. Twitter has had a very dynamic history. It started in 2006 and grew slowly over the next year. The site went from having 400,000 tweets per quarter to 100 million the next year. By 2010, people were tweeting 50 million times a day! The growth was rapid and unstoppable. What’s even more interesting is different people have different experiences on the site. Some will say Twitter was at its purest in its infancy when truly creative, funny and thought-provoking tweeters rose to prominence. Others, like myself, will say Twitter was at its best between 2009 and 2010, but it varies for everyone. It all depends on who you follow and how engaged you are. Obviously, all entries on this list are similar, but your enjoyment of twitter lives or dies with who you follow.
For me, having a bunch of college students and current grads from different social circles allowed for hilarious discussions, and arguments. I’ve had some of my best laughs going back and forth with people on my timeline. “Going In” on a Tending Topic was much more important the actual human interaction. Black Twitter is quite literally the funniest corner of the internet and award shows will never be the same because of it. In 2015 a TV shows popularity is determined by the number of tweets while it’s on-air. Although I’m not as active its still fun to see my narrow view of society react to album leaks, celebrity twitter beefs, and overall ridiculousness. Twitter wins this battle fairly easily because of how enjoyable it was to read the thoughts of friend and strangers in 140 characters or less.