Social Media Day: From hashtags and trends to TikTok and MySpace

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All those apps we can't live without. Photo: iStock

The ever-present digital pulse of the internet is an undeniable part of our lives, to such an extent that we even have an official day for it – International Social Media Day.

When you think of ‘social media’ as an umbrella term, apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram probably come to mind, but the origin dates back even further.

And if you think MySpace was the first, you’d be wrong too. The first social media platform was launched in 1996. That’s 27 years ago!

Social Media Day

The commemorative day was launched by Mashable on 30 June 2010, and has since grown into a global celebration of all things social.

Social Media Day acknowledges the transformative role these platforms and apps play in global communication and its power to bring people together.

The leader of the pack

Even though MySpace is an early bird in the social media space, the first-ever platform is widely considered to be Six Degrees.

Founded by Andrew Weinreich in 1996, the site launched the following year and had everything you’d find on Facebook, which only came much later.

Six Degrees had individual profiles, friends lists, direct messaging (DM) and school affiliations in one service.

By the year 2000, the site had amassed around one million users and was bought for a whopping $125 million before being shut down later that year.

Social media as we know it today

It might have been short-lived, but it paved the way for MySpace, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and the smorgasbord of other platforms we love (or hate) today.

In today’s interconnected world, all these apps and platforms play an incredibly pivotal role.

In it’s current iteration, it is synonymous with everything from trending hashtags and viral videos to news reporting and product marketing.

The majority of netizens use social media to keep in touch with family and friends, while sites like Twitter have demonstrated their power as distributors of news.

For celebrities and businesses, it provides a platform to market, sell, launch products, gain popularity and make that moola.

The dark side of social media

With the rise of social media, a darker psychological problem emerged – psychologists refer to it as the Social Comparison Theory.

The term was coined by American psychologist Leon Festinger back in 1954, decades before the social media even existed.

Social comparison theory suggests that people value their own personal and social worth by assessing how they compare to others.

Social comparison theory

According to Festinger, the theory describes the comparison processes people utilise to evaluate their actions, accomplishments, and opinions in contrast to those of other people.

Unfortunately, social media has kicked this obsession into overdrive and we often end up comparing our lives to those we see on Instagram and Facebook.

But it’s important to remember that all those exotic vacations, weekend adventures, and idealised versions a person is just a highlight reel of the best moment.

It is thus crucial to avoid negative self-comparisons based on those carefully curated life glimpses we see. Remember it’s not real, it’s just a very carefully chosen perspective.

The Citizen/Cheryl Kahla