25 Years of Tech: Changing How We Connect

The rise of social media has changed how people interact and how they communicate. Sites like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Twitter have made it so no one you ever knew has to be a stranger. That was certainly not the case 25 years ago, when you had to pick up the phone or attend a high school reunion to catch up with people.

In this segment from Industry Focus: Tech, host Dylan Lewis is joined by Fool.com contributor Daniel Kline to break down the rise of social media. They discuss the differences between MySpace and Facebook as well as how we got to where we are now — and what’s coming next.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 29, 2018.

Dylan Lewis: One of the things that we also noticed with the last 25 years in tech is that it’s become much easier to connect with people online. We’ve moved from this AOL and Yahoo, directory-style, discussion forum interaction to not even anonymous. I am who I am on Facebook, let’s be friends, let’s communicate and let’s join groups together. There’s a major shift in the type of content that people are consuming online and what the media landscape looks like.

Dan Kline: It’s broadened the world. At my 10th high school reunion, I was legitimately interested in catching up with people. I had a pretty small high school class, 130-some people, and maybe ten of them were people I had some interaction with on a regular basis. Now, I have no interest in a high school reunion. Is there anyone from your high school class who you don’t know what they’re doing because of Facebook? I not only know their job, I know what they had for lunch yesterday!

Lewis: You know what, Dan? I’ll tell you, I got wind of my upcoming 10-year high school reunion because someone posted something on Facebook and was like, “Please add people to this group! We’re trying to coordinate!” So, I am, surprisingly, up to speed with what’s going on with people in high school, but I think I’m still going to go to that 10-year reunion.

Kline: Obviously, it changes a lot as you get older and people move farther away from home. For me, my high school reunions tend to be Thanksgiving time back in Boston. That’s an expensive flight, it’s not that many people anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to, but it’s very easy. I’ve had more personal conversations with people I didn’t really know in high school now. Even earlier today, I threw out, “Hey, I’m going to Stanton Optical to buy new glasses, has anyone had any experiences?” And a whole bunch of people from my high school — some of whom I knew, some of whom I don’t know that well — jumped in with answers. It’s very much changed our ability to do anything. You can crowdsource information on anything, from where to buy glasses to, should I take a trip here?

Lewis: We spent a lot of time talking about Facebook, I think it’s worth at least giving a name-check to Myspace. Before Facebook, we had Myspace, and that really got us to the social media world that we live in now.

Kline: I had a Myspace page, but I had a Myspace page because I was trying to be a media personality. The difference between Myspace and Facebook is the democracy of it. On Facebook, famous or not famous, you all have the same platform. On Myspace, you signed up for Myspace mostly to follow bands and sports figures and comics and other entertainers that you liked. It was really more about that type of social interaction, whereas Facebook is a much broader — I have my mom commenting on posts, and my high school teachers, and my son’s friends. It’s a very different universe.

Lewis: As people’s connections have gotten stronger, we look at their ability to access high-speed internet and things like that, what these services have delivered has really expanded. You see Facebook getting into live content, for example. And you see other platforms coming in and delivering content in a way they just couldn’t have in the early 90s, mid-90s, even mid-2000s. I’m thinking specifically about streaming here.

Kline: I think, in some ways, Facebook is pioneering becoming platform-agnostic. Right now, if you watch video on Facebook, you already have the tools right there to talk about, to do what Talking Dead does, but while something airs, and in an uncurated way. Why is Netflix not offering that? While I’m watching a show, why can’t I be interacting with all the other people watching it at that same time, or who have already seen it, to have this community? I think you’re starting to see more platforms bleed into each other. Is Facebook a video platform? I think it’s fair to say that it is.

Lewis: In the grand scheme of grievances against Netflix, I’d say that’s a pretty small one for what they deliver. This is a company that has really transformed the media industry and sidestepped traditional cable in a way that just wasn’t possible 15 years ago.

Kline: They’ve also created this current environment where content is king. You see with the DisneyComcast battle for Fox that named properties are worth so much. Give Netflix a ton of credit for really starting a lot of franchises that were not named properties. It is very difficult to put a television show, whether it’s on air or streaming or in any format and get anyone to watch it. What does your Netflix feed look like? I have about 60 shows I’m never going to get to.

Lewis: Oh, it’s crazy! I have so much to catch up on. I’m working my way through the recently launched season of Arrested Development right now, and I’m about midway through. I have to say, it’s a little disappointing, as someone that’s a long-term fan.

Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook. Dylan Lewis owns shares of Facebook and DIS. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook, NFLX, TWTR, and DIS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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