While some social media outlets are dealing with issues of privacy (is the government reading our timelines?), Twitter is going public (with plans for an initial public stock offering). And during the recent attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, both the authorities and the terrorists were tweeting their versions of events. Here are 10 more updates:
1 In 2011, an Israeli couple, Lior and Vardit Adler, named their daughter Like, after the Facebook feature.
2 Credit a good old Chicago snowstorm for giving social media an early boost. Chicagoan Ward Christensen couldn't get to work Jan. 27, 1978, after 12 inches of snow blanketed the region, so he called his friend Randy Suess and began working on the first Bulletin Board System, or BBS, which allowed early users to post messages or share computer code — via modem, of course.
3 The stairway to heaven is on the Internet. Lineforheaven.com gives visitors a "spiritual journey in a fun, light-hearted, nonhostile environment." In effect, you try to earn your way into heaven by collecting "karma points." All participants share a message with other contestants about why they are worthy. They earn karma points in several ways, such as judging the worthiness of others and confessing their own sins. There's even the modern version of indulgences — buying their way into heaven. A dollar is worth 10 karma points, and "Your donation helps keep your favorite Heaven website alive."
4 About 35 percent of recently married American couples met online. That's according to research led by University of Chicago professor John Cacioppo using a Harris Poll of nearly 20,000 Americans who got married in 2005-2012. But another conclusion of the study — that these online couples are less likely to separate or divorce — has inspired some skepticism, in part because the study was funded by the eHarmony online dating site. But Cacioppo stands by his research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
5 Crowd funding is a new term for a very old idea — asking people to make small contributions toward a larger cause. That's how churches got built, how Chicago's Hull House was operated and how the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty was financed. But Internet sites like Kickstarter, Crowdtilt and Indiegogo are giving the idea new reach and power. Many projects are uplifting, such as the Crowdtilt campaign to replace David Henneberry's boat, which was damaged by gunfire when Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hid inside. But other efforts seem ridiculous, including personal appeals to fund a new smartphone or a Vegas bachelor party. There's even a website devoted to women's requests for help paying for breast implants.
6 The first telegraph message, transmitted on May 24, 1844, by Samuel Morse, was "What hath God wrought?" The first words spoken by phone, on March 10, 1876, by Alexander Graham Bell, were, "Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you." And the first Twitter message, tweeted by co-founder Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006, was, "Just setting up my twttr."
7 Twitter co-founder Dorsey's first tweet referred to "twttr" because that's what it was originally called — sans vowels. Dorsey's group soon realized that it needed to add an I and an E, and it acquired the twitter.com domain name from a bird lover. Facebook (previously called The Facebook) didn't originally own the fb.com domain name. It was the property of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which sold it to Facebook for $8.5 million.
8 The power of social media to mobilize the public behind a common cause is already legendary, possibly most notably as part of the Arab Spring revolt in Egypt in 2011. But sometimes the cause is more pedestrian, like a girl's Sweet 16. In Hamburg, Germany, a teen mistakenly posted an invitation to her birthday bash to the public. More than 1,500 crashed the June 2011 event. Before it was over, the poor girl reportedly had to flee from her own house, more than 100 cops had been called to disperse the mob and 11 people were arrested for assault and property damage.
9 You know that feeling you get reading your old high school girlfriend's Facebook page or seeing what your neighbor does when he isn't home? It has a name: ambient intimacy. Coined by Leisa Reichelt, a social media expert based in London, it means, "a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn't usually have access to." Knowing what somebody ate for breakfast, what irked them reading the newspaper, who they're having drinks with tonight, all creates intimacy, Reichelt wrote on her blog in 2007. "It's not so much about meaning, it's just about being in touch."
10 If you join a MMORPG, you might lose your FOMO and eventually meet someone FTF who will say BTWITILY. Or, in other words, if you join a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, you might lose your fear of missing out and eventually meet someone face-to-face who will say, "By the way, I think I love you."
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor.
Sources: "The Social Media Bible" by Lon Safko; The Guardian; Chicago Tribune; Spiegel Online International; healthland.time.com; mashable.com; ijreview.com; techcrunch.com; slate.com; socialmediatoday.com.