UP NOLAN CREEK: Not-So-New Social Media
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 by WAYNE CARPENTER
The news media has been obsessed recently with the Facebook phenomenon. Social media is all the rage, and I enjoy a good success story. I think it is great that a twenty-something techno whiz can become a multi-billionaire for creating and selling something that doesn't produce a tangible product. Part of Mark Zuckerburg's original motivation may have been a means to meet more young ladies, a fairly typical motivation for most males from puberty onward. The fact that he could make an unbelievable amount of money out of the pursuit was certainly icing on what turned out to be a very rich cake.
I recently had a minor epiphany about social media. Unfortunately, it didn't come with great financial reward like that of Zuckerburg's. With all due respect to Zuckerburg, I think social media was in vogue at least fifty years ago at Belton Junior High School. A word or two about 7th grade before I try to explain that statement. I have often read stories of people who thought they were about to die and said their whole life flashed before their eyes like a movie. If that's so, there are several scenes that I would like to cut from the epic film of my own life, including most of my seventh grade year. The junior high (middle school) years are hard on many kids trying to fit in to a new environment. After a great elementary school experience during sixth grade at the old Tyler Elementary, the transition to BJH was not fun. I'm sure hormones may have been partly to blame, but I really despised the seventh grade experience. I feel blessed to have survive the period without major psychological scars. Fortunately, life was better for me the next year, and I went on to a great high school experience. Looking back, this junior high period was when I first experienced what I believe was the pre-technological grandfather of Facebook. Long before personal computers, there were junior high "social networks" called Slambooks. The idea behind a Slambook was that someone, almost always a cute girl from the "in-crowd", would think up a couple of dozen questions on such critically important junior high topics such as who was cutest girl or boy, who had the "dreamiest" eyes, which teacher was the "coolest" or the "grodiest" (totally uncool or most disgusting), who was your favorite singer or singing group, what was your dream car, or who was the skuzziest (a slang for low life) in junior high school. There were those key relationship questions such as "do you think a girl should kiss a boy on the first date?" Of course the guys always answered yes, even though we weren't yet sure why. The Slambooks covered a variety of other trivial pursuits that 13-year olds minds found utterly fascinating. The questions were typically written one per page, then the person signing the Slambook would write his name on the front page by a number, then give his or her answer by that number on each following page throughout the book. The Slambook would be surreptitiously passed around, usually between classes, as teachers tended to frown heavily on such non-academic pursuits. Students who were not in the "in- crowd" were sometimes excluded from signing the Slambook altogether. As you can imagine, what was basically intended to be fun sometimes hurt kids' feelings when someone "posted" or wrote something negative about them. Overall, it was a relatively harmless part of junior high experience, and I enjoyed it at the time.
Today when folks, and I am sometimes guilty, post useless information about any and all subjects on their Facebook page it reminds me of Slambook days back in junior high. People become miffed when "Friend' requests are denied. They get irate when someone makes a snarky comment about their favorite person, or fails to "Like" something they thought was wonderful. I personally enjoy the social networking that Facebook provides. It is a nice way to catch up with old friends and ex-students that I have known, many of whom I have not seen or heard from for many years. I only wish I had the foresight to capitalize on the Slambook/Facebook idea myself!