Saturday 12 April 2014

This Was Facebook In 1975

How frustrating were the 1970's for a talkative teenager. No mobile phone, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter. No Privacy!! Once we were home from school, that was it. Our lives belonged to our parents.

Up to the day I left home, our only telephone was glued to the wall, smack bang between the kitchen and dining room where my mother mostly lived. And it was on a short coiling cord. Anyone and everyone around at the time of a much anticipated phone call - or an unexpected one - could hear every word you said, even when you cupped your hand over the mouthpiece and whispered with your head turned away as if that suddenly built a sound proof wall between  you and everyone else sitting just an inch away. Try as I did to streeetch the phone line and somehow squueeeze myself into the hallway so as to shut the door on all those nosey eavesdroppers, the cord would not relent. It was like our phone had signed  a secret pact with my parents to sabotage my private life. Or, to protect me from heavy breathing prank callers and those older 15 years old boys who wanted me to meet them in the bush. Our telephone took on a personality of its own, poised on its home made mosaic tiled coffee table, knowing how desperate we were for it to ring, gloating about how its groovy oliveness matched our household decor. Le telephone knew he was in high demand because we all wanted him -the whole family! It was so annoying. Our teenage dramas had to be shared with and be interrupted by other emergency calls - like real ones - and 'Dad will be home late' calls, and that pesky upstart younger sister who wanted to use the phone too. I mean, I wasn't allowed to use the phone at her age! 

Clearly, a good old nag on the telephone just wasn't enough because it wasn't often enough and never as long as we wanted. Many of us played sport at recess and lunchtime too, so we  just had to bring our gasbagging into the classroom, which is really where Facebook was born. Mark Zuckerberg did not invent Facebook at all. School kids did.

We used to call it a Paper Conversation. Facebook in 1975 was a piece of paper that was handed around from hanging paw to hanging paw and from under one desk to another. We pretended we were pulling up our socks, reaching into our school bag, had dropped our pens, or were scratching an itch, as we secreted the Paper Conversation around the classroom  to selected members of the 'chat space'. In jest, boredom, earnest or desperation, we scribbled our opinion and comments, gave each other worldly advice, complained about 'bitches' and dissected good, bad, ugly , fat, tall, and colourful boys, all the while pretending we were genuinely taking notes on the captivating learnings our teacher was imparting, as if our teacher didn't know what was going on. Unless my diaries later tell otherwise , it was rare for a teacher to confiscate the Paper Conversation. That would be like spying on a teenagers Facebook. At home it was a different story however where our frequently self incriminating notes were found at laundry time much to our unbearable embarrassment, because we would forget to remove them from our school uniform pockets.

So this is what Facebook looked liked in the 70's. It would start with something like "Do you want to write a paper conversation?" Or "Well, what'll we talk about?"

Facebook in 1975

Written by Petra Campbell

Twitter: @petraau


  1. Petra, well done hanging on to such a great archive. You're the equivalent of a USB or external hard drive, securing important stuff for the future. I love your facebook analogy- so true. Funny I don't think many boys engaged in these paper conversations, or was that just me? regards Peet

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