The internet has always seemed to be under constant fire ever since it was created from certain parts of the media who are hell bent on letting everyone know how evil it is so that we keep buying newspapers and watching TV. They say it shortens your attention span, constantly misinforms you, stops people communicating with friends, turns you into a narcissist and generally makes you into a more stupid and ignorant person, like some journalists. So if all this negative press aimed towards the internet is right then how would spending a month living online affect me?
Over the last month the only times I was not at my computer was when I had to go to work (which is 4 times a week for 3 hours each morning) and some nights when I would turn my computer off when I went to sleep.
I didn't go out with any of my friends or have a social life outside the internet. When I wasn't working I was at home sitting on my computer looking for things to do online. The real question is did the internet turn me into an anti-social, geeky, short attention spanned, narcissistic, porn addicted dumb-ass or are all the assumptions made just out of bitterness and competition? Let's start with friends...
Is it Possible to Make Friends on the Internet?
The first thought that came to my head when having to spend a month online is would I be lonely since most normal people don't tend to spend their lives attached to a computer. Luckily for me I already had over 600 Facebook friends at my disposal with an average of 30 online in the day and over 100 in the evenings, however I didn't find myself really talking to people I know. Over the entire month I have spoken to less than 10 of my real friends on Facebook chat and maybe a few more by commenting on statuses which shows that the majority of my Facebook friends aren't actually friends I usually communicate with online. This is most likely because the people I tend to hang around the most don't spend that much time on Facebook.
Only speaking to a small single group of people seemed like a big problem to me, so I decided to set out and see if it was possible to make some new friends online. The first thing I noticed that meeting someone online has a lot of similarities to meeting someone in real life. The two websites I used to meet people were Omegle (which is a website where you randomly get put into a private chat with a stranger) and on Chat Roulette (where you randomly connect up to a stranger using a webcam and mic).
When you get dumped into a random chat with someone online most of the time the other person is looking for a 'cyber sex' partner because they are feeling horny. I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people who spend a lot of the time on 'random people meeting sites' are just very horny people and there are very few people out there who are looking to connect with other people in a none penis or vagina related fashion. Even though this is the majority, it is clearly not everyones intention to simply try dogging on the internet. When not faced with a sex hungry beasts, the conversation usually drifts off into where the other person is from and I usually asked the question "So what do you do with your life?" which got some very interesting responses.
Omegle immediately creates first impressions based on what someone says and how they think rather than anything else. This is a far better tool at meeting people since you actually tend to carry on speaking to people based on whether they have similar interests as you and not based on looks, gender or age.
I also went another route by creating a new YouTube account and simply talking about topics I found interesting and seeing if I could make any friends that way. After doing it for a week I got a message from someone who runs a Vlogging channel (video blogging) with 5 other people and asked me if I would make videos for it every Tuesday. I checked out the channel and accepted and through there I met another 4 new people who also worked on the channel as a hobby.
I ended up meeting people from all over the world. The majority of people I met online however didn't come from these sites. Practically every person I shared interests with on these websites added me on another social networking tool; whether it was Facebook, Sype, MSN, AIM, Friendster, Youtube, Twitter or Myspace. These people would then introduce me to their other friends.
One person I met in Canada introduced me to someone who lived in California who I started to speak to more regularly than anyone else. I also got introduced to another group of people who live in California through a different person on omegle. I ended up speaking to more people that I met through others online than the initial people I met. The strange part was when you check out these people's social networks the ones I usually carried on contact with all were the same demographic as me; either 17, 18 or 19. There was also no clear gender discrimination as I made friends with just as many girls as I did guys.
So how did the relationships carry on? Well I speak to a group of 12 people from California who all go to the same college, apart from me, pretty much ever day on a chatroom via Skype. The people I met on YouTube I also talk to on Skype however we spoke video conferencing around 3 times a week for about 2 hours at a time. Out of the YouTube people there was on other person from England, two Americans (one from California and one from Texas) and one from Sweden.
I also had contacts I met online through other specific social networking sites such as Geeks.Pirillo.Com, Current.com and via blogging but since I didn't meet them this month I have decided I will not go into depth about how I met them.
As I am also about to head off to university for the first time there were some big social networking groups for people heading to my university so I decided to take advantage of that. I have met around 6 people through that channel who I could regularly speak to on Facebook and ended up speaking to them more than the people I knew before.
So did the internet turn me more antisocial? Well the honest answer is no. Apart from the people I spoke to who are going to my university, which I would have probably spoken to anyway, I still met more people this month than I would have ever met leaving the house and living my normal day to day life. When are you talking to people with the same interests as you online you start to care less about where they are from and more about the actual person. I did miss actual social interaction a lot and meeting people online is not a substitution but rather a different experience. There is something a lot different about going out with someone and physically see them rather than being a room looking at the other person down a camera from half way across the world.
After this month I am already planning on going to meet the people I met online next summer and should have a lot of fun speaking to these people in real life as I have online. I will also be creating a documentary about travelling and meeting people in real life I have met online which will be filmed next year.
If you haven't tried meeting new people online I suggest you do since it has done more good for me than bad. Like everything, it is very good in moderation, and people shouldn't see meeting people online as a taboo or treat everyone who does like they use it because they can't make friends in real life. Try it out and maybe you will have the same success I did...
Add me on Skype: tim.edwards929
Next: How to Pass Time On the Internet