By M.R. GusWas I one small step short of creating Facebook in 1993?After recently watching the Social Network Movie (an unauthorized movie about the creation of Facebook) I dreamt about how close I was onto stumbling into a master piece. For the past year, I have wondered how many college students shared my obsession from about 1993-1997.
I begin this story by going back to when I was a sophomore at Santa Clara High School in Oxnard, CA. I was an academic standout and star basketball player with an athletic frame. There were those who considered me to be overly handsome. I had a witty sense of humor when I was in my comfort zone amongst my circle of friends. I had everything going for me. Except for one hang up–I didn’t know how to talk to girls since I was overwhelmingly shy.
Something happened when my mom subscribed me to the Prodigy Internet service in 1986. I perused the message boards and connected with a few girls I recognized as being classmates. I remember sending messages to them and they responding relatively quickly. It was quite a thrill getting a response from girls via messaging. Unfortunately, I was not able to connect with said girls outside of Prodigy-I figured i was just a late bloomer.
Fast forward to 1991. I was accepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a Computer Science major. The engineering classes were filled with guys and I was in an all male dorm, so once again I was unable to interact with girls. I was in the computer lab 10 hours a day trying to get through the curriculum but unfortunately, I just couldn’t hack it. I dropped out of Cal Poly after my freshman year. After bringing up my grades while attending Ventura Community College, I transferred as a junior to University Califronia Santa Barbara.
Since I transferred to UCSB in ‘93 as a junior, I decided not to live in the dorms and found a studio apartment in the college town of Isla Vista. Although UCSB is known as a party school, once again I literally did not talk to many girls my junior year. I was so determined to spread my wings and socialize, I decided to change my major to Psychology hoping I would be surrounded by beautiful girls–a much better girl to guy ratio than within the engineering department.
During my second year at UCSB, I shared an apartment with my new roommate, Joel. At this time, UCSB rolled out their new campus wide DOS intranet service. We were able to see a list of students who were currently online and we could connect with each other via chat, messages, screen interruption banners, and pokes. I quickly became addicted to chatting online to any girl who would respond. I became so charming online, I quickly starting setting meetings with the girls at the local campus coffee shop or I would invite them over to bbq’s or parties at our apartment. Meeting young female students online was so much easier and less-intimidating for me.
My roommate Joel & I met dozens of girls this way but there was one major issue. These dates were completely in the dark. We would get flirty with the girls online and ask them to describe themselves and have them compare themselves to movie stars yet oftentimes the comparisons were wanting and, perhaps, they felt the same about us. It was always exciting to see what these girls were going to look like but inevitably we were usually disappointed and perhaps they were as well .
My roommate’s little sister decided to enroll at UCSB to be with her brother. Everything changed one evening when I decided to hang out at my roommates sister’s dorm room. I noticed a glossy magazine on her dresser and began to flip the pages. It looked like a high school year book. It was called The Freshman Facebook. I asked Jessica about it and she said the administration had distributed it to all the freshmen so they could make connections with their fellow dorm-mates. Inside the pages, I found glossy color photos with first and last names, major selected, hometown, hobbies & interests. I immediately gestured at my roommate and told him I had discovered gold! I knew this was the missing step in our intranet dating efforts. We could now cross reference the faceless list of names on the campus intranet and determine if the girls were a physical match by looking them up on the newly acquired freshman facebook. We were also able to use the information provided (such as interests and hometowns) to break the ice and strike up online conversations.
After years of fine tuning my intranet charm, I was finally able to parlay these skills offline and strike up conversation with women in person. Once I graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles, however, I sensed a huge void since I no longer had access to the UCSB intranet or the facebooks. It took me a few months to finally forget about the facebook connection. During the last 14 years I truly had not thought about those days until I saw the facebook flick.
After watching The Social Network Movie, I started to reminisce about my facebook dating schemes and strategies. How close was I to having something special? I know people were using message boards to meet people but I wonder how many college students were using the freshman facebooks to cross reference the campus intranet in order to meet and make connections? Was I one algorithm short of a master piece? I am no Mark Zuckerberg, but it sure is fun looking back and thinking, “What if”?
I recently began to question dozens of my friends who attended various universities during the ‘90’s and I asked them if they had similar experiences with this new social network when they were in college. To date, none knew of such a thing happening in the ‘90’s. Evidently, most universities did not offer intranet services in general. Needless to say, “The Facebook” was not something most university students were privy to.
Is it possible I was one of the pioneers by consistently using the campus facebook intranet connection and realizing how I could employ it as a tactic to assist me from emancipating myself from my shell of shyness?