May 31, 2012

My journey online, through the years

It all started with Yahoo!, where anonymous strangers met in chat rooms pretending to be something they weren't, looking for something they couldn't get and exploring the freedom of hiding behind a screen.

The late 90s were all about hotmail and yahoo: instant messaging was new and cool with their colored fonts and smiley faces, chat rooms let you be anyone you wanted to be, talk about anything you really wanted to talk about, and world-class creeps lurked at every corner.

The creeps still linger today, but I like to think I'm a more sophisticated virtual social entity now. We're more savvy, more open, more honest with our online identities. Maybe it's a bit naive and risky to put out your real name and post a picture of yourself instead of a powerpuff girl (yes, at one point, I had a powerpuff girl DP). But it's also been extremely liberating and rewarding.

Virtual society is so diverse and open minded now, it's not scary to be utterly honest anymore. There will always be the jerks who criticize and shoot off their mouths with nothing reasonable to say. But there are so many more people who give concrete feedback, show genuine care & concern, and just plain get you. That makes being scarily honest worth it.

The early days of "social lurking" were about dipping your toes in here and there, putting up false fronts, about making not so genuine or lasting connections and sporadic interactions. (And if you didn't lie in a Yahoo! Chat group then you're either a saint or too young to have actually Yahoo'd ;D)

Today the online experience is more about networking, discovering, marketing, being a brand, being honest and getting honest feedback. It's all about sharing: experiences, information, ideas and more. It's how we connect, stay in touch and maintain old relationships. It's where we make new relationships, find new friends, discover future employers/employees. Since we've started being more honest and open I have "met" some fantastic people online, and have even made one of the strongest and most lasting friendships of my life.

This change over the past 10ish years makes me wonder what the next 10 will bring...?