People Are Retreating to Private Chats Because the Open Internet Can Be Terrible

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Group-chats are huge right now: From WhatsApp to Slack, people seem to be retreating from the cacophony of the open internet into quieter, more (for lack of a better word) curated online spaces. Kyle Chayka has a nice exploration of this phenomenon up at Gizmodo, and it’s worth checking outThis might be the key paragraph:

In the absence of strong anti-harassment tools on most major social networks (thoughTwitter recently promised to improve its blocking function), group chats preserve a corner of the internet for empathy and understanding, intimate emotions that seem to have less and less of a place online. Our small tide pools shelter us from a utopian promise of [cyberpsychologist John] Suler’s 90s-era internet—instant connection with all humanity across any distance—that has since become a threat.

When historians from the future look back and write about the advent of the internet and how it changed — and didn’t change — human behavior, this divide between the Utopian ideal and complicated reality may end up being one of the most important themes. A lot of people thought that the radical openness and connectedness of the internet would help undermine some of humanity’s world impulses — tribalism, stubbornness, and mob mentality — but in many cases technology has only exacerbated these tendencies. It’s no wonder an increasing number of people appear to prefer small online gatherings with friends to the oftentimes brutal online world that exists beyond the virtual walls of private chat rooms.