Believe it or not, the origins of socialising online are over fifty years old. It started before the invention of the World Wide Web with what was called the Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).
This very basic form of communication allowed users to leave messages on a centralised computer system. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that social media, as we know it today, really got into its groove.
Pre-Facebook sites like Six Degrees and Friendstar allowed users to set up profiles and connect with both friends and strangers. Everything changed in the early noughties with Myspace and, of course, Facebook; almost overnight socialising online was as normal as making a phone call.
By 2010 social media had expanded into Instagram and Snapchat, inviting a younger audience to use the technology for fun stuff. By now, socialising online was already a huge part of business, first Skype and the likes of Zoom transforming the way we worked.
But at the start of 2020, something happened that would change the way we interacted as human beings. The global pandemic forced people into their homes; social interaction was, for most of us, exclusively an online concern.
Working remotely became the new norm and now our social lives existed solely in laptops, tablets and smartphones. Before we take a closer look at the dos and don’ts of socialising online, let’s familiarise ourselves with some common online activities.
- Instant Chat
Evolving from the chatrooms of the 1990s, instant chat was arguably popularised by Yahoo’s Messenger and AOL’s Instant Messenger later in the decade. Now it was possible to have real-time type conversations online, which enabled users to both work or play games etc while chatting to friends, family or colleagues.
Of course, these days we almost take instant chat for granted, thanks to the convenience of smartphone Apps. And it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without them.
Webcams have been around since the late 1990s, evolving alongside instant messenger services which morphed into video calling. The emergence of Skype, offering a free voice and video service, kicked off a veritable revolution in video calling.
Now businesses began to adopt the services. Meetings went online and employees were increasingly able to work from their homes.
But the face-to-face revolution wasn’t just occurring on laptops, smartphones offered a truly mobile way of communicating face-to-face via bespoke applications. FaceTime was launched in 2010 followed by the likes of WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.
The latter applications were given a huge boost by the pandemic and have significantly affected the way we work in today’s marketplace. The impact it’s had on the modern office cannot be underestimated.
Anyone who fancied a game of darts or pool, bingo or cards could do so just by flipping on a preferred device. Now gamers had the chance to interact with fellow players or an entire audience, check out these guys.
During the pandemic, games provided moments of relief from the outside world while allowing players to socialise with old and new friends alike. For many, online gaming meant so much more than merely putting pay to those Covid blues.
- VR and AR
If we take the above -gaming, meetings, instant chat- and put them into a virtual environment, socialising online is taken to another level. But the opportunity to meet in cyberspace in a virtual capacity is still a form of interaction that’s finding its feet.
As it stands, predictions that this way of socialising online will be as normal as Skype, say, seem to have cooled off. But the technology exists and, like Facebook, could suddenly be as normal as putting the kettle on.
- Online dating
There is no question that socialising online has had a major impact on the way humans interact romantically. The first online dating site, Match, appeared in 1995, but it would have been hard to predict back then just how much of an impact it’s had on society.
It’s reckoned that over 70& of heterosexual couples in the US met via a dating app. Which brings us nicely to our final point.
- Staying Safe Socialising Online
The takeaway line from this section is that you can never be too careful. Begin by creating a password that is impossible to guess, so obviously don’t use any part of your name or moniker.
Don’t share personal information. This may seem harder to do when online dating, you’ll need to go online for more information in this area because it’s not a one-size-fits-all consideration.
But always verify strangers and never download links you don’t know/trust/understand. The point, and we can’t stress this enough, if you’re in any doubt about anything, walk away.