Cast your mind back to around 2000, when you’d never heard of Facebook and a revolutionary new website launched; one that allowed you to take a look (ok, snoop and judge) at what your old class mates had been getting up to since they left school. That’s right folks, we’re talking about Friends Reunited – which last week announced its imminent closure. The end of an era.
So as the sun sets on what was arguably our first foray into social media, we’ve been asking ourselves: what went wrong?
We asked everyone in the office why they first used Friends Reunited, and the reaction was mixed: anyone under 25 looked rather blank (“Friends what?” ) and reminded us that they were actually in school at that time. Ouch. Michael tried to offer a helpful insight by saying, ‘I think my parents used it…’
Ok, ok – we get the picture: seemingly no one under the age of 30 used Friends Reunited.
For those of us ‘mature’ enough to remember using it, the reasons for delving back into our past were two-fold: to reconnect with long-lost friends and to generally have a good snoop at what had become of our classmates.
But the site was attracting an undercurrent of extra-curricular activity – around 2005, it was fast-becoming a hotbed of internet infidelities, as unhappy spouses now had a means of tracking down their first loves. More than once it was cited in divorce cases and led to one lawyer describing it as “a website not to be visited if you value your marriage”.
So assuming you didn’t want to indulge in internet infidelities and you’d had your fill of nosing at the profiles of primary school friends, first crushes and that really-annoying-girl-from-year-9; what was there left to do? The answer is not a lot – and that seems to be where the site fell down.
When Facebook opened its doors to the mass market in 2006, it signalled the beginning of the end. It allowed – encouraged, even – the type of two-way-interaction and real-time updates that Friends Reunited was severely lacking. You weren’t limited to connecting with people you went to school with – you could literally connect with anyone; the world was your oyster. Who cares which school they went to.
So as it prepares to close its doors, we thank Friends Reunited for giving us our first insight into social media, feeding our innate curiosity about ‘what happened to..?’ and allowing us to feel smug in the knowledge that we’re doing much better than the snotty prefect who always thought she was better than everyone else at school.
And if you still want to know what happened to Kevin from down the road, you can always find him on Facebook.