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I've written about this at length elsewhere, but does it feel like it's a lot more difficult to meet new people online than it used to be? I feel like there used to be many spaces online to accomplish specifically this, but now it feels like the majority of the internet is designed simply to facilitate existing connections. I actually met my wife online in 2014 and it feels like ever since ~2017, it's just become impossible to meet new people online.
Does anyone else feel this way, or is it just me?
Not just you at all, but maybe on a different timescale for me. When the nerd-enthusiast message boards were the only places to chat (pre-myspace and pre-fb and thus pre-2005 or so), I would frequent those and knew quite a few people and site owners. There was enough mutual trust that we would do hardware swaps and sales without the buyer-seller safeguards of eBay.
When I was still on FB, I was in a few groups dedicated to specific bands, or architectural styles, or design. I browsed them frequently and commented and posted. Yet not once did I have a direct message or conversation with anyone else in the groups. Something about the way social media is structured is fundamentally different. It tends to make all conversation at-a-party-small-talk, or even worse drunk-argument-at-a-bar. Those message boards past (and this one) are like a gathering of a group of actual friends or at least friendly acquaintances where common interests are established simply by being there at all.
Some of those message boards are still around but the sites don't have private owners running them out of a labor of love, even if the content quality is still there (think the user forums of sites like anandtech or arstechnica).
And not to be dumping on/stereotyping a particular group, or to be insulting to anyone, but in terms of the nerd/tech sites that still have forums, nothing has ruined gaming like gaming culture. The hardware nerd who understands how the technology works and also likes gaming is a different kind of beast from the self-identified Gamer with a capital G. The latter seems to have overrun the former in online discourse. (Is my graybeard showing?)
I've *always* found meeting new people online difficult, so dunno. But it really seems like the overall meaningfulness and homeliness of the internet is gradually dropping across the board. Maybe it's because of the sheer magnitude of digital distraction that gets blazed into our heads every day and overloads our brains to the point of general numbness and chronic social apathy. Net is, in my eyes, increasingly dominated by soulless corps trying to sell unnecessary shit, suck up attention or extract user data. Individuality — and, by extension, a drive to seek new distinct connections — is being overwhelmed by the noise of a billion-voice-strong, restless hive.
A little disclaimer first, I've never been one to make many friends online. I made some friends on IRC, but I was very active developing in that particular community. I also think the fediverse and initiatives like this place are potentially very good for that, in general they foster a healthy environment. The problem you perceive I think is due in large part to all the giant social media platforms being basically just a huge market/haverster of info on people to serve big capital, how can this promote meaningful human interactions?
I would agree, although I might be slightly too young to remember in great detail how things worked upwards of ten years ago...I've made a small group of friends via discord, but I'm on their periphery, and it was accidental. Meeting on discord through hobbies probably ranks among the more common methods of meeting people online, these days, but any attempt I've made to do so intentionally outside this has been unsuccessful.
That existing connections are better facilitated is surely right. But the design of so much "social media" seems even to sustain these within such narrow confines of expression that the relationships are necessarily damaged or reduced. Both Instagram and Twitter encourage superficiality, the former in images and the latter in text. (Facebook dismisses itself from serious discussion.) Discord, and tools like it, are in theory preferable, but more often than not their communities have either far too many people to make yourself recognizable to anyone unless you engage with them obsessively, or so few that you're more or less trying to wedge your way into a clique.
Not just you. Even within the confines of Twitter, I feel like I used to at least make virtual friends much more easily.
But, of course, a lot about me and my behavior has changed, too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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