The Secret to a Better Internet? Post Less, Chat More.
Contrast that with life on the feed, where each post is a performance that informs the platform of what the user does not fully understand from a specific and invisible point of view.
The blessing and curse of chat has always been that it’s hard to make money from talking – it will feel more like an ad in a feed, like a distraction. This leaves our most important and perfect conversations to fight over features stuck in a larger subsidiary context – AOL, Gmail, Facebook, your favorite game – and the rest of the market specialization (Campfire, Slack, Signal) or scraps. These services, most of which are incompatible with each other, come and go, leaving our collective back-channel in a state of ever-changing fragmentation and confusion. It is also difficult to improve on chatting. Services may work better than others or have some more features. But the best chat service is, as always, that you don’t have to consider using.
We’ve been chatting before feeds were captured, and we’ll keep chatting after they’re gone. In the meantime, making your internet experience more enjoyable can be as simple as posting less and chatting more.
New approaches to online social chatting in a more central role. Young readers and gamers in particular may be familiar with the Discord app, where a quarter of a billion people hang out on their own creation servers, ranging in size from a few people to thousands, divided into channels, as needed. (This is especially popular for its voice-chat feature, which gamers use when playing together.)
Discord, which has been giving more or less meaning to IRC users since 1988, can be understood as an attempt to create a social media that is ultimately subject to chatting. It is more common for online communities, fandoms, and entire websites to direct users to an attached discord server; Reddit may be where many new online groups start, but subreddit discards are often the real energy. The cryptocurrency and NFT world in particular have embraced Discord, which helps provide space and membership to their decentralized efforts.
Chatting is not the only way to feel like the future. Two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg took a tour of the virtual environment and how the next Internet will enable you to communicate more closely with each other around the world, in a way that makes you feel immersive, direct and personal instead of feeling alien and awkward. His pitch was futuristic, but the description of this ideal new world seemed very familiar. Spiritually, Metavers does not post. There are chats.
For Context is a column that explores the edges of digital culture.
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