Is Twitter the New Chat Room?

September 18th, 2009 by


Back in the late 90’s, when Netscape and AOL ruled the Internet, there was a new phenomenon called “Chat Rooms.” Remember? Chat rooms allowed online visitors to connect with each other on a virtual level that had never been known before. I know what you’re thinking, “Chat rooms are SO last decade. Welcome to Web 2.0!”

Better take a look in the mirror Mr. Web 2.0. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, are basically glorified chat rooms. Once again, what began as an unknown form of online interaction has become the biggest phenomenon in the Internet today.

Hard to believe? Let’s take a look at all the similarities between social media and chat rooms:

  • Open discussion for everyone, everywhere
  • Links shared and followed
  • Random usernames and profiles
  • Discussion groups and fan clubs of all types
  • Facial expressions and emoticons still in use : )

Ironically, the Internet has come full circle with chat rooms of the late 90’s becoming the social media sites of today. If you find yourself asking, “So, have we reached the end of the Internet? Does this mean we’re back to square one?” The answer is “No.”

Although the same communication principle between chat rooms and social media sites applies, it’s obvious that sites like Twitter and Facebook offer more features and have easier ways to connect with one another to share information.

So if you loved chat rooms but just haven’t gotten around to adding yourself on Facebook, or creating a Twitter profile, I invite you to embrace the madness. Chatting with good friends and even complete strangers has never been so easy or fun.

What other similarities or differences do you see between social media sites and chat rooms?

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# 19th September, 2009

When I think of “chat rooms” I think of anonymous “rooms” where people anywhere can go to chat with other people who happen to be online at the same time. Most of the chat rooms I have experienced were topic-specific. Any number of people could submit text and it was rather confusing. Then there is instant messaging, such as AIM, MSN, and Yahoo. Here you create a “buddy list” of friends you know in person or met online. You must exchange user names in order to coat with someone.

Facebook is more like instant messaging. (I have not yet become “Twitter-pated” so I can’t say whether the same goes.) Not only does Facebook now have an actual instant messenger, but you choose who you become friends with and even who can see if you are available to chat. However, Facebook definitely takes it a few steps further. It has personal information, photos, an e-mail-like inbox, and countless applications you can add to your profile.

I think that while history is known to repeat itself, these new social media websites have learned from the past and improved our ability to communicate and stay in touch.

It brings to mind a billboard I’ve seen recently. I believe it’s by Omniture. “The internet isn’t going anywhere.” To which my initial reaction was: “What? It’s not progressing?” Upon further contemplation I realized it probably meant that the internet is here to stay. And I believe it is progressing, for better or for worse, it is moving forward.

Kirk Maudsley
# 21st September, 2009

Great points Heidi. It’s true, social media carries a similar platform to an instant messenger. Probably more so than a chat room. (Should I have renamed my blog post?) Social media sites have learned from their predecessors and have improved how well and how much we communicate. Both Twitter and Facebook also have more privacy than chat rooms.

With Twitter, you can choose whether your profile is seen privately or publicly. I’d say 98% of all profiles created are public. Similarly, Facebook also blocks your content for all uninvited guests. At times, Twitter can seem like a chat room where you have all these indirect tweets going into space. However, you can direct your tweets at individuals in two ways: @reply, and Direct Message. @Reply is like responding to a friend’s text message, but all of your other friends can see it. Direct Message is private and only the recipient can read it and reply.

Because Facebook has so many applications (like you mentioned) it almost seems more like an online journal to me.

I also saw the Omniture billboard, but I’ve never though of it the way you first interpreted it. Very insightful. I wonder if they ever thought about its double-meaning? Regardless, it’s true that the internet is here to stay.

Stu the Wise
# 24th September, 2009

As Heidi pointed out, social media is simply building upon what is. However, to me FaceBook and Twitter are no more similar to chat rooms of the 90’s than are cars and airplanes.

I would liken a chat room to a room full of people all conversing with each other at the same time (without all the yelling to be heard over each other of course), whereas I would liken social media to an empty room with a whiteboard in which people occasionally come in to write messages on. Others who wander through the room can see those messages (but only those that have a key to the room) and can pick up the marker and reply to an existing message or leave some thought of their own. Maybe while you’re in there (in the case of FaceBook), you can rifle through the filing cabinet and learn more about the person who wrote the message you’re looking at.

Just like the car and airplane are both modes of transportation, chat rooms and social media are both ways to communicate with others online, but do so differently. I guess you could say that social media is a chat room with wings and a propeller attached to its engine.

Speaking of which, I actually got here after reading one of your tweets. I guess I took a plane into the city, and am now taking a taxi by replying to your blog post. Okay, enough with the analogies.

Kirk Maudsley
# 24th September, 2009

Well put Stu the Wise–wise indeed. Although social media is more organized, doesn’t it still seem at times like a room full of chatter? Everyone is sending out random thoughts of the day to no recipient in particular but their public. That’s the way I feel about Twitter sometimes. Regardless, your analogies are spot on and very entertaining. 🙂 What would you say most resembles a motorcycle?