Claude S. Fischer’s chapter of “Touch Someone,” The Telephone Industry Discovers Sociability illustrates the gradual changes in the use of the Bell telephone and how it became “sociable.” One of the most interesting aspects of this article is the lack of freedom in regards to the use of telephone. It appears that most people only used the telephone as “long-distance communication” (Fischer 34). Fischer explains that “sociability themes appeared, but were relatively rare and almost always suggested sending a message such as an invitation or news of a safe arrival rather having a conversation” (Fischer 40). This is where the lack of freedom—and sociability—in usage of the telephone fits, as in the early 1900s the telephone was primarily used for household management and business.
Today, there are many Internet websites that compartmentalize different aspects of sociability. For example, LinkedIn is primarily for professional and work relationships—a similar area of interest as the telephone in the early 1900s. Facebook is mostly for social purposes, but also encompasses awareness of events and some “professional” aspects. Instagram is for photos and videos. Recently Instagram has developed direct messaging, however it isn’t “sociable.” Twitter, unlike Facebook, is mostly for making people aware, rather than being strictly social. Most average adolescents have about two thousand friends on Facebook, but maybe only 400 Twitter and 800 on Instagram.
When I first got an Instagram at the beginning of ninth grade, a friend of mine who had been using Instagram for about a year gave me the low-down. The first rule she gave me was to never post more than once in a day, and if you have a group of photos you want people to see, save it for Facebook. The second rule was to never excessively hashtag, and to save the Twitter. The third was to have a private profile, and to save the random friend requests for Facebook. The final rule was to never let a family member follow you, and to let them just be Facebook friends with you. It sounds silly, but I was actually taught how to be sociable on Instagram.
Just as most people in 2014 wouldn’t post a picture on LinkedIn of them partying, most people in 1910 wouldn’t use the Bell telephone to call up a friend to say “what’s up.” While the technology we use to be sociable has changed over the past century, the use of sociability has not.