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Let me take you back in time a few years, when an ever-so-slightly-younger Hobbes was exploring and enjoying a relatively new and increasingly-popular purveyor of information and entertainment: the Internet!


I would quite often visit the chat rooms offered by my ISP, and converse with total strangers about whatever topic came up. Sometimes discussion would move into private messages, and new online friendships would form - some of which still exist today. Although, at that time, I personally didn't meet up with these people (instead keeping them as solely online friends), I knew plenty of other people that did - and regularly - thus moving the relationship into the 'real world' as well.

Equally, online forums (such as our beloved Matazone) were frequented in order to engage in discussions with like-minded people, and new friendships would be formed and cultivated through the board and via other private means. Again, there would often be the opportunity to meet up, and so perhaps solidifying the friendship in a 'real world' context. Similarly, I didn't do this myself at the time, but I know a lot of people that did.

Alongside the fear that meeting up with someone might result in being chopped to death by them, there was also a fair amount of reports in the media of how the Internet was actually detrimental to a person's ability to socialise. Ignoring the opportunities to meet up with the onliners, the notion was that time spent chatting online with people reduced an individual's time for meeting and talking to people face-to-face (i.e. chat room vs. the pub/a local club/etc.). It was also cited that too much time spent socialising in an online form could affect a person's ability to socialise effectively in 'reality'.

Many would argue against this, due to amount of new relationships they formed online, but the debate existed...


Now, let's pop back in my time-machine and skip to the present. Please make sure you bring all belongings!


If I now make the attempt to pop into an online chat room offered by my ISP, or on various websites, I struggle to find one that actually contains anybody to talk to. In my opinion, the traditional chat room is dead. If you want to throw yourself amongst a group of strangers online in the hope of finding someone worthy of your time, this no longer seems to be an option. IRC can offer something akin to what you might be looking for (although user numbers have been dwindling in the last five years), but it is no longer a 'standard' upon the Internet and the vast majority of new users are probably not familiar with it.

Many of the popular forums and message boards are also seeing a reduction in numbers. As the number of visitors lessen, so do the number of posts, which makes the board become stagnant and 'out-of-date', and therefore discourages new people from joining. Finding a lively forum with the right amount of activity is, as far as I can see, quite a bit harder than it used to be. The semi-techy alternative, Usenet newgroups, is barely spoken of anymore (one of the initial and largest servers that gave birth to Usenet - Duke University - decommisioned its server this year) and although the content has seen year-on-year increase (in filesize/MB), this is due to far more automated spam and larger files being hosted (i.e. HD movie files). So... forums no longer seem ideal for new online socialising....

However, there is one particular area of the Internet that has increasing numbers of users.

I think it is a fairly reasonable for me to make the generalisation that everybody is on Facebook. There's been similar sites before, there's alternatives now, and no doubt something superior will turn up in the future. But the likes of MySpace, Bebo, and Facebook all effectively offer the same kind of thing - what is now commonly referred to as 'social networking'.

Yay! People are now staying in touch with all their current and old friends, sharing their news and photographs, finding the people that they once knew. Hurrah for online socialisation once more. It would seem that Facebook (and its brothers) may be the cause for there being less people using chat and forums now. People have moved on to something new and different.

But... how many new relationships are formed ON Facebook? Sure, we add all our friends, find a few from 'the old days', and keep in touch to some extent (another relevant argument here would be whether the odd comment or status update actually equates to socialising with people). But I would say that it is very rare for a Facebook user to "Request a Friend" of someone they don't already know. There are groups to join and pages to 'like' so that we may express our shared interests, but there's not really a decent way to converse with the unknown people that also enjoy our chosen hobby/celebrity/favourite biscuit.

So, Facebook - arguably the prime form of online communication - gives us a decent means for maintaining our current friendships. But, does it offer us much to create new ones... actually preventing us from increasing our social circle? Does modern social networking services now cause social stagnation, in regards to opening up the opportunity for talking to NEW people?

Discuss smile.gif

P.S. sorry about the length of this post
I have always been a bit bugged by the comments people make saying that the internet makes people more anti social. I think I just take it too personally because getting to meet people online has actually opened up my social opportunities. I think that the internet actually makes it possible for shyer people to be able to open up and socialize more with other like minded individuals. Also on a personal note, it's made it easier for me to travel places, see more things and expand my world.

I do totally see the point you are making about facebook though. For the most part I don't add anyone I don't know on facebook, with only a few exceptions for people for my silly farmville addiction, but they are only friends of friends and I don't talk to them. For the most part though, facebook is just my friends and some family. I do like that it's helped me to reconnect with some of my old friends though, others not so much.

I think that facebook is helping to kind of kill the opportunities to meet with new people, but I'm sure you could still find some chat rooms with new people to talk to if you really looked. There are places with a lot of people who chat like yahoo, but what I've found with them is that I don't find too many people that I get along with. It seems like the places with more lovely people are the ones that have less people to talk to. I can't totally knock it though, I met some of my best friends on excite chat years ago. I guess you just have to look for the gems and bring them over here like I did with Cand!
I've never seen facebook as a place to meet new people; merely as a tool to keep in touch with those I know.

I leave meeting new people for proper social interaction methods.

[/2 cents]
I'd agree with you and Tara on this. Facebook is a place to keep in touch with people you know or used to know. Unfortunately they are also taking over and pulling people away from the places where they might actually meet new people online.

Generally I rather dislike Facebook but continue to use it for precisely the reason I dislike it: a lot of the people I know use it exclusively so in the cases of people who don't live nearby it's the only way to stay in touch.
I disagree, I think you are just extrapolating from your own use of the internet, which is changing.

There are still many ways to meet people through the internet - forums, local groups that organise themselves online*, online dating, irc. I don't think any of them will go away soon as each fills a particular niche very well.

Facebook may be displacing other methods of communication like instant messaging and informal email between friends, but it is primary a tool used for communicating within a social network, rather than expanding it, so I don't think it affects how we meet people very much.

* Including through facebook!
Facebook certainly has its flaws and idiosyncrasies, but I have to admit that I rather like it... I certainly like it better than the previous alternatives. MySpace and Bebo both allowed too much customisation, which ended up making everything look pretty messy. Facebook's insistance on keeping things relatively uniform is welcomed. But yeah... there's a lot about it that can be annoying.

I think one of the Internet's big 'selling points', I suppose, was the new opportunity it gave to interact with people from across the world via chat/forums/etc. and I think that there has been a definite departure from this.

Part of the blame could also be attributed to the newer ways in which we use and access the Internet. For many of us, it's no longer the case that we, "Go on the Internet" of an evening. The web's information and services are now part of our mobile phones, or televisions, or consoles, or iPads, etc. We can check our Facebook updates using an app, and so - to some extent - no longer consider there being a process of "going online". Online is just... always with us, for when we need it.

Discussion already exists to suggest that the current nature of the Internet is dying... that it will soon no longer be about "browsing the web" but an exploration via applications, or live local data, or geotags, or whateverthenewthingis.

Currently, if we were to be looking for information about - for example - the Star Wars movies, we might do a Google search. It could bring us to some official webpages, the IMDB data, and plenty of fan sites. Traversing through all these could mean we'd come across some fan-forums, or fan-fiction, or fanzines... leading to opportunities to meet new people, or talk about this shared interest.

The web's future looks set to move far away from this. We'd think, "I wanna know about the Star Wars movies," get our phone/tablet/blahblah out, click the IMDB app, find some info, and then we're done.

It seems a shame to me...

What would Facebook have to introduce in order to allow and encourage new people to 'meet' one another?
QUOTE (CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane @ Nov 27 2010, 04:00 PM) *
There are still many ways to meet people through the internet - forums, local groups that organise themselves online*, online dating, irc. I don't think any of them will go away soon as each fills a particular niche very well.

* Including through facebook!

Absolutely. I totally agree that these ways still exists and so there ARE ways to meet new people online. But I think that (outside of the online dating arena, which is a little different) the opportunities to do so have reduced. Personally, I think it is harder - but not impossible - to discover ways to meet new people online in a form that allows easy means for relationships to form between people, rather than groups of people.

e.g. You can join and/or 'like' a Facebook group, and post a comment on there - along with hundreds/thousands of others - but it never appears to be particularly personal. Discussion isn't really entered into. The strangers do not talk to one another, they just talk...
There is always the option of playing the social games on facebook, or on other sites. When I play poker on facebook I can interact with some of the people who are also in the "room" playing poker with me and I even made a friend once...but then he got creepy and that's a totally different story.

There are game sites like that as well. I used to play boggle, dominoes, checkers, chess, (am I sounding lame enough yet) scrabble and few others where I got to chat while playing games.
QUOTE (LoLo @ Nov 27 2010, 04:54 PM) *
When I play poker on facebook I can interact with some of the people who are also in the "room" playing poker with me and I even made a friend once...but then he got creepy and that's a totally different story.

*gets comfortable*



A friend of mine got chatting to a girl whilst playing Pool on some gaming website. They ended up in a relationship for quite a while... although it turned out she was an absolute fruitloop.

So, of the two stories I know about people making friends through website gaming, it doesn't build my confidence. Haha! smile.gif
Perhaps it is an age thing...

I'm 27 now *creaks and groans*, so perhaps it is just a case that there is more on offer to the younger generations, as regards to chat? I dunno. Of the few times I have found myself amongst strangers in an online situation, I'm almost certainly one of the eldest. Perhaps what it actually means is that I shouldn't be wandering around on the Internet anymore; I should be painting the fence whilst my wife cooks the Sunday roast, and our two kids play on the XBox that "daddy is rubbish at!".


So, need to get a wife, and two kids then...

Or perhaps I should just get an XBox smile.gif

To be honest, the point I'm making is not so much that I am particularly feeling a desperate need to meet new people online (although I am certainly not averse to new friendships formed in such an arena), but that I think the Internet is now less geared towards that kind of activity. Maybe it is better that way? Safer? Pushing people towards more chance of 'real life' friendships? I dunno...
I am one of the least sociable social-network users I know. Back when you still could, my facebook profile would be unsearchable by anyone but my friends, all my data (including tagged photos) would be the same- only seen by friends. I don't like Facebook, I don't like how I feel compelled to use it as a way of keeping up-to-date with what's going on with certain people.

I say "certain people" because it is only certain people. I hardly never use MSN chat anymore, instead sitting in IRC whenever I have my computer open to keep in touch with Internet People*. I've met more people in person through IRC than I have through social networking sites (although I should mention one of my closest friends that I made after chatting for ages after he messaged me on MySpace. Yeah, I'm cool)- one of whom I stayed with when I went to New York (meeting him and his girlfriend for the first time). Remember kids: if you meet people from the internet, you will be chopped up into little bits.

For me, IRC is where I meet new people. I don't have any interests that I am so utterly interested in that I want to talk to other people who are also VERY INTERESTED in such subjects, so specialist forums aren't for me. I like IRC because I can ignore it and come back to it, have real-time conversations with people, meet new people and read other people's conversations. However, I don't just step into a chan because of the #name or it's current subject- it's only ever because someone I know already is there lurking/ talking.

My close friends from whom I live hundreds of miles away still get phonecalls and sometimes letters. We don't talk every week, maybe not even every month, but when we do it's normally enough to keep our mobile phone providers in business. I can't think of any form of social networking or chat that allows for the same level of emotion, conversation and interaction between people as phonecalls do (apart from Skype...) and I don't think that there will suddenly be a fad that will replace it.

*Internet People: those who understand that there is more to the Internet than what you see through a browser
QUOTE (Daria @ Nov 28 2010, 10:30 PM) *
For me, IRC is where I meet new people.

When it comes to IRC, I spend almost all the time in the "not-officially-affiliated-with-Matazone" #burrito. And, to be fair, since chatting to the lovely guys and gals in there I've met up with a few of them a couple of times, and it's been fab! smile.gif I have strayed into other networks and channels occasionally, but have yet to find another home that suits me. But I know that's not IRC's fault, it's just that I haven't been guided anywhere else as yet.
The #whitechapel chan on mibbit is run by a friend of mine and is based on the Freakangels comic by Warren Ellis. I don't like comics, but there's an interesting bunch of people in there- most of whom aren't too vocal about their W.E. fanboiness happy.gif Another I sit in is #linguistics on freenode, which is filled with a bunch of multilingual and linguistically minded jerks. Everyone is opped (the founder is a dreadlocked basque speaking anarchist whom I met for the first time this year when we picked him up in Ullapool before going camping in Skye) and it's interesting to be in there if only for the amount of languages being spoken at one time. Almost all participants are trolls, too, which is pretty funny.
I suppose the closest that the likes of Facebook has to aiding the development of new friendships is through some of the games and apps that are available.

Not many of them offer great levels of interaction between people, but I know - as LoLo said - there are some that allow small groups of random people to be together for a period of time. And I guess it is more than possible to have an interesting conversation in these games, that is then worth transferring onto IMs/emails/Skype/life/etc.
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