Ever since the Internet was conceived, it has changed the way that people interact with one another. While many saw its vast potential for gathering and disseminating information, as well as for enabling long-distance and virtual communication, there are still some who believe that it has had the opposite effect—that computer users end up alone and isolated, with no need for physical activity or contact given the immense data available at one’s fingertips.

However, this is quite a pessimistic view, as in the past decades, the Internet—along with digital and mobile phone technology—has given birth to countless innovations in communications that has enabled people around to globe to keep in touch with each other and speed up the exchange of information.

Instead of feeling isolated or being intimidated, modern technology has enabled many people to find like-minded individuals, share common interests and passions, and build strong communities and groups, albeit virtual or online. Readily available and easy-to-use tech tools such as social media and communication applications have provided venues for people to come together in cyberspace.

The Internet has also opened up gateways for people to express themselves creatively—and while this may be contentious given the rise of “fake news” and undesirable social media behavior such as trolling and cyber bullying, for the most part, people have found constructive self-expression online.

The beginnings of social interaction online

Some may perhaps remember how mainstream Internet began in the mid-1990s with dial-up connection. What was considered a technological breakthrough then is now viewed as obsolete compared to today’s standards of broadband or fiber optic technology.

Aside from the early wonders of surfing the World Wide Web and corresponding through e-mail, many people also quickly took to the pioneering mIRC or Internet Relay Chat client on the Windows operating system. While the Internet has been around since the 1970s, only during this period could it be considered that online social interaction became truly widespread. Millions of individuals were able to communicate with each other despite being miles away, and not even knowing each other personally.

This was where popular chat jargon also developed, with acronyms and abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud) or ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) eventually gaining widespread use. Website-based forums, which are a lengthier and more permanent type of chat forum, also started to come to fore. Evidently, Internet communication has evolved as a whole subculture unto itself, one that is continuously felt up to today.

The birth of social media

As computer and Internet technologies continued to progress and gain more speed, accessibility, and usability, so did the many things that individuals could do in terms of communication and interaction. Web-based e-mail clients such as Yahoo developed their own chat or messaging functionalities, along with the game-changing e-mail platform Gmail by search engine giant Google in the early 2000s.

Friendster is also widely considered and most remembered as the precursor to today’s immensely popular social networking site Facebook, along with similar formats such as MySpace and the beginnings of blog formats such as Blogspot and WordPress.

By the time mobile telecommunications technology had caught up and given birth to the concept of the smartphone, applications have become a more widely used method of accessing the Internet. Just in the last decade, social networking and media apps such as Twitter and Instagram have exploded, integrating hundreds of millions of users in a vast interconnected network of real-time data and information exchange.

The Internet of Things

Experts call this massive interconnectedness as the “Internet of things” or IoT. It merely illustrates the vast potential of the Internet and modern telecommunications technology impacting modern and future life with the creation of smart homes, smart cities, and other automated phenomenon.

Thus, there is very little reason these days for people not to be able to reach out online and make friends—even if it is virtual. What is important is the sense of connection and togetherness, the benefits of which to one’s well-being and personal development is undeniable.