This feels like an opinion topic to me, instead of a GQ. Correct me if in error.
Five to eight years ago, the net was a pretty hot scene, socially speaking. It may still be popular today, but I don’t believe it is as popular as it once was. I find this especially evident in the infinite world of chat rooms and instant messaging.
FYI: I know what killed the net in the “business” sense, but that’s a whole 'nother topic, and not what I’m asking about.
Why the big decline in people using the net, in the social sense?
I have some speculations, but I don’t know how accurate they may be:
[li] Spam, pop-ups, and all other incarnations of unwanted ads. No one likes that crap.[/li][li] Chat bots: I hate these things with a passion. The worst part is the ones who have some sort of AI. [/li][li] Scams: Any scam or hoax that dupes people into compromising privacy issues e.g. identity theft, money theft, etc.[/li][li] Skewed perception via Media horror stories: Unfortunately, negative news often makes for more interesting coverage than neutral or positive stories. You’ll hear about the one wacko who stalked someone down, before you’ll hear about the other 99 couples who met their wonderful and safe partner or friend online.[/li][/ul]
Did I miss anything? Opinions and/or facts will be appreciated, please.
I’m not sure that there has been an actual decline, but going ahead and assuming that there has been one, I think that other people misrepresenting themselves online might play a big part. People don’t have to meet the hot chick love of their life online only to have it turn out to be a burly man to get to this point; anyone who’s been online for more than a few years has invariably had a bad experience where someone misrepresented themself in some way that later came back to bit them in the ass. It could be as simple as a person always sending out pictures that were 3 years and 40 lbs. ago, or the guy that always refers to his “ex girlfriend” but fails to mention that they still live together and have a child, or as simple as the platonic friend who’s fun and laughs online and a meek doormouse when you finally get together for a beer in person.
Given that it’s been a decade now, I’d imagine that many people have been permanently put off of using the net as a social vehicle through these experiences.
LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, Orkut, FriendFinder, et al. have provided enough structure that the “social scene” tends to concentrate around these types of sites. Also the internet social scene now seems to be less about meeting new people and more geared towards keeping in touch with people you already know.
When I got my first computer as a teenager (1998), AOL was what virtually everyone (I knew) had. There was a lot of socializing through there; the one thing AOL did well compared to the wild wild web IMO was chat and the ability to seek out new people based on your interests, hobbies, etc. The only live chat I’ve ever participated in (not talking instant messengers here) was on AOL. I got as far as installing and opening IRC a couple of times, but I’ve never been able to stand it. So when I finally graduated AOL to the grown-up internet, that pretty much ended my chatroom experience.
AOL has been in decline for a while now; maybe or maybe not it has something to do with what it offers being less appealing. I think like above mentions, the rise of blogging-style sites has created a different type of social network online. LiveJournal in particular has communities centered around virtually every subject you can imagine; you can find someone with the same hobbies as you, or in the same fandom, or that shares your love of a certain dog breed, whatever. The people are out there you just have to look for them. In some ways I socialize more online now than I did back then; it’s just instead of talking to random strangers I keep in touch with people I know. New people I meet are usually friend-of-friends. I don’t go out of my way to find new people, though.
Perhaps my experience is anomalous, but I’ve met quite a few people in person that I’ve met online, and everyone has pretty much been as-advertised, so to speak. I don’t think the sensationalist news stories really impact people all that much, either. If there’s a decline at all, it’s probably just because the novelty just wore off.
The Internet social scene is just as lively as ever, you’re just out of touch. MySpace is a major social player and it’s pretty easy to meet a lot of friends there. For high school kids, it’s nearly the focus of their social networks. Screennames are passed around instead of phone numbers. People organize stuff like parties on MySpace. Livejournal also does the same thing, although there is a definite “LJ” generation and “MySpace” generation. Anyway, the social scene is there and I think stronger than ever. It’s not unusual for a friend to spend the weekend "with someone I met on MySpace’, for example.