Facebook and other social media giants like Twitter are not all that new. In fact, the social networking blueprints were already laid for Mark Zuckerberg, albeit he may not even have been aware of that fact. Just ask communications’ pioneer, Al Gross what he might think of Facebook today. If he were alive, he might have something insightful to say about its remarkable evolution.
Though many of us may not be old enough to remember the Citizens’ Band Radio, also known as the “CB radio”, it was by all standards, the metaphorical father to online social media networks that we know today…and the proverbial calm before the storm of modern social media networking platforms.
It was during the mid-1900s when CB radio started the rage of interpersonal communications – from families to individual businesses, to anyone traveling the highways and byways, and everywhere in between. It was not uncommon to pick up the receiver and speak to anyone, anywhere with a unique username provided to you by the FCC. My dad’s CB radio “handle” was “Wild Bill Coyote”. I remember as a young girl picking up the receiver on long trips and communicating with truckers and other drivers along the roadway. Just like Forrest Gump’s quote on a box of chocolates, you never knew then what you were going to get (on the other end of the CB radio that is).
Back in the day, CB radios offered a grand scale of interpersonal communications among perfect strangers. Just like today’s social media networks, the CB lent its ingenuity and people-power base to major social shifts. Similar to twitter’s recent influence on the Egyptian revolution, the CB was collectively a powerhouse of its own during the 1970s oil shortage crisis (yes, we had oil shortages then, too). People from all walks of life employed the CB to revolt against fuel shortages, fuel rationing and the 55mph-imposed speed limit in these United States. Not to be outdone by Hollywood’s recent chronologically but dramatized film on the success of Facebook and Zuckerberg (The Social Network), films like Convoy and Smokey & the Bandit were all the sensation for the rise against the machine – rather, political action inspired by its citizens.
The most novel and interesting parallels that one can draw between the CB radio networks to online social networks can be the swift “friending” of complete strangers, unique usernames and special lingo. All the “LOL”s, “TTYL”s and “BRB”s were nothing compared to the lingo of CB talk. CB radio users had a language that only they could understand. Ordinary and common dialog went out the window just like today’s social networking sites. Kris Kristofferson, who played the “Rubber Duck” on Convoy is quoted as saying, “When we get to the pass, we’re gonna put on our fish costumes, pass out the Vaseline® an’ an extra ration o’ rum for the men.”
Amid the exploding social media networking scenes online, where are we really today? Are we the modern-day version of CB radio users? In one of his later interviews, Gross is noted as saying: “If I still had the patents on my inventions, Bill Gates would have to stand aside for me.” I imagine he is smiling somewhere in the flow of energy. His lightening in a bottle, after all, was the first to inspire these remarkable tools in communication. We are only so fortunate to have been privy to his firsthand knowledge, talent and motivation to birth the infancy of what online social media is today.
PS. The next time you tweet or post a comment, you can do so with a smile and a simple thank you to Al Gross.
Trailer to Convoy:
Social Media Infancy: The Calm before the Storm
By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media Sorceress on current events, social media, philosophy and more!
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