Home » Uncategorized » Day 33: Where Did the Term “Social Media” Come From?

Day 33: Where Did the Term “Social Media” Come From?

I got to wondering about the term “social media” so did some googling.

Wikipedia defines the term this way: “The means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”


University of North Carolina at Pembroke defines the term in a bit more detail: “Internet sites where people interact freely, sharing and discussing information about each other and their lives, using a multimedia mix of personal words, pictures, videos and audio. At these Web sites, individuals and groups create and exchange content and engage in person-to-person conversations.”

This came from a fascinating timeline article they have written, going back to the 60’s, and one thing I found interesting is that they say blogging began in 1997. I had no idea!

Oh, and blame the Brits for the first “social network” site, to gain any serious attention, in 1999.


Anyway, I also had no idea there was a squabble going on over bragging rights to who invented the term “Social Media”, did you?

In 2010, an article in Forbes went on and on about it, naming names, listing websites, getting explanations from various claimants, and more.

“The earliest citation in Nexis or Factiva for a use of “social media” in anything like the way it’s used now is from 1997, when serial entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, then an executive at AOL, was quoted talking about the need to offer users “social media, places where they can be entertained, communicate, and participate in a social environment.”

Ol’ Ted swears, on a stack of bibles, or what, I don’t know, that it all goes back to events in the early 90’s involving the development of AOL Instant Messenger.

You can read more about this debate, here:


The most fascinating and amusing article I found about the origins of social media is one from 2009, on the Copy Brighter website. While it doesn’t claim to know who invented the term, it does a grand job of explaining that the concept of social media goes back to the 1950’s, those happy days when some, if not all, in the family were  engaged in something called “Phone Phreaking”.

They also explain how activities called “codelines” and “2600 meetings” were the ancestors of blogging and tweetups, in the early 90’s.

Someone in the comments pointed out the obvious:  “CB Radio’s, along with its earlier cousin Ham Radio’s, were virtual communities of the highest order.”

Wow! I was participating in “social media” using activities, as a teen, in the 70’s when I was part of a volunteer community policing group patrolling the city of Pomona, Ca., in the middle of Friday and Saturday nights! Who knew?

Read more here: http://copybrighter.com/history-of-social-media

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