The web has been social since day one.
As it took form, the internet attempted to connect information and people. As it developed, it began to take on the form of its own society. Once the World Wide Web arrived, there was no questioning that a digital culture had been created. People socialized via linking to each other, discussing topics on message boards, and chatting over messaging platforms long before blogs, Facebook, Twitter, et al.
Originally, the intent of this post was to go through the history of digital social media, but Brett Borders beat me to the punch and did it so well that I’ll point you to his brief history of social media post. A great point he makes is that digital social media actually began on the good old telephone. During the 50’s phone hackers would record messages on corporate voice mail systems and share the call in number with other phone hackers, who would leave messages that the original hacker could respond to in his next “show”.
If we focus purely on social media, it may have existed for even longer. Would you consider Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the first multi-page newspaper in the U.S.A., to be a form of social media? The first (and only) edition of the paper was published in 1690 with a blank page at the end for readers to write comments and pass along. That’s right, a newspaper was the first media form to encourage readers to write and share comments.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if Publick Occurences represented a form of social media. In either case, the truth remains that social media is not new and has been around for at least a few decades.