• Lauren Perna

Social media: How it started and how it's going

A few weeks ago, I was catching up with a client/friend and he asked if I would give a presentation on social media to his students. He's a communications professor at a local college. I happily agreed because I love shaping young minds. The presentation is coming up this week, so I began thinking about what to discuss.

The upcoming appearance brought me back to my college days, which were…20 (!!!) years ago. It’s funny to think that I’m presenting about social media, given that in my college days, the only form of social media I used was AIM (LSugarHigh1014 in the house👋🤦‍♀️). On the contrary, the majority of the students in this communications class have probably only known life with social media.

I graduated in May 2004 from Fordham University—the same year Facebook launched. However, I missed the boat on the new platform by mere months. Once it was accessible to all universities, I had already graduated. Shout out to my brother for allowing me to log in as him so I could check out the unchartered territory.

It’s funny to think how much social media has evolved over the years. If you told me 20 years ago that social media would become such an integral part of our culture (and my job!), I probably wouldn’t have believed you. When Facebook started taking off in 2009, I remember thinking…well, this is just a fad, it won’t last. Like 8 tracks and cassette tapes, I assumed the next fad would take over.

Social media began mainly as a way for kids to keep in touch and is now woven into the fabric of our lives. While different platforms may come and go in popularity, the concept of social media is as normal as going to work, watching TV, eating dinner…it’s just another part of life.

Social media has led to the sweetest of romances, the harshest of disputes, the spread of the biggest lies, and the coordination of the most amazing social movements. It has changed the way people do business and it’s made everyday people into celebrities. For better or for worse, social media shifted how we see others and ourselves. For every negative, there is undoubtedly a positive.

Just how much has social media changed since I graduated from college?

Well, I did some digging and thought I would share the results of the #howitstartedvshowitsgoing challenge for social media.

Here’s a handy chart showing social media's growth from 2004 to 2018.

All these years later, Facebook continues to be the most popular social media platform with 2.8 billion. YouTube is close behind with 2 billion.

Here are a few other cool facts about social media’s increasing reach and impact.

  • The first social media site to reach a million monthly active users was MySpace in 2004.

  • In 2008, Facebook covered around 1.5% of the world population. In 2018, it covered around 30%.

  • There are 4.20 billion social media users, meaning more than 53% of the world is on social media.

  • Each person has an average of 8 social networks and messaging apps, up from 6.2 average in 2015.

  • The percentage of US adults who use social media increased from 5% in 2005 to 79% in 2019.

  • Social media users are now spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on the platforms.

  • On average, the world’s internet users spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day.

  • 48% of US adults 18 to 29 say they go online almost constantly, and 46% say they go online multiple times per day.

  • 346 million new users have come online within the last 12 months.

  • There are 5.15 billion unique mobile users.

  • 99% of social media users access it via mobile.

20 years ago, I knew I wanted a career in communications. I just had no idea that would mean something so different today.

Tell me, how has social media changed your business/career/life?

My facts and figures are compiled from the following very helpful sites:

Social Media Users — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights

Global social media research summary August 2020 | Smart Insights

The rise of social media - Our World in Data

Digital trends 2019: Every single stat you need to know about the internet (

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