Has the wide spread of social media made us less social? It used to be that on the internet you could go into chat rooms and strike up a conversation with random people or join a forum and there would be thousands of other members posting nearly daily. These things are still somewhat possible, but it seems that since everyone you know has an email and Facebook account that people are less likely to seek out those that they don’t know and try to converse with them.
This just came to me the other day, but even with the advent of things like Twitter actual chat-like conversation with more than one person becomes difficult or even sluggish, it’s almost a regression from the chat rooms of old; the IRCs, MSN and Yahoo chats—most of which have died off.
Microsoft has traded the functionality, fun and customizable sleek look of their Windows Live Messenger client for the dismal look of Skype. Many of the features that we have enjoyed in Live Messenger and MSN Messenger before that are gone and replaced with a uniform look, un-customizable emoticons and fonts and more video chat features that not many people seem to use if there’s no need.
Surely these things died out because of a lack of use, Yahoo chat rooms a few years back seemed to be exclusively populated by ad bots. People used to go on them or AOL hoping to make connections (sometimes love connections), but there’s no need. Anyone you’ve ever known is probably on Facebook and people would rather try and reconnect with old friends than make new ones.
For a time even Facebook was a good way to meet new people, but this changed around the time they opened it to high school students and the public at large. There were no longer those random “let’s meet for coffee” messages because the site was much bigger than you campus and we weren’t always just connected through friends.
Now there are some things out there that pride themselves on meeting random people like Chat Roulette, but usually no permanent connections come from it. I have friends I’ve known over a decade that I’ve never met in person, people who live across the country or world who have actually shaped the things I’ve done and the choices I’ve made. One of the biggest was probably Juliet Singleton and her influence on my decision to write.
There used to be such an adventurous way about the internet, which is odd consider that in the late 90s people still seemed to consider the chat room surfer to be someone to be socially ostracized. Back then you didn’t have to have a perfect connection with someone to be friends, a lot of the time you learned that even without surface level things in common there’s still something there. And those kind of friends really make for the best discussion.
I doubt that the internet will ever swing back that way and I’m sure I’ll always miss it.