Socializing online has evolved, it would seem. Proof seems to show in how people are conducting themselves online through mobile means with their smartphones or tablets. It’s brought a little quirk that’s surprising in some ways and which shouldn’t be: The fact the stand-alone instant message clients seem to be turning into relics from the past.
There are two instant-message clients that seem to rule the roost now, with people not reaching out by other means (and for them to reach out through these means is suspect): Facebook Messenger and Gtalk. Both clients are tied to broader networks and both are broadened by smartphone use. Facebook Messenger is marketed as an alternative to texting and most people I see using it regularly are mobile based; Gtalk is tied to Gmail, G+, and Android phone use. That doesn’t mean other long-time IM clients don’t have apps (AOL IM, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ among others)… I’m not even trying to talk apps here. I’m a PC user who relies on the Trillian IM client (an all-in-one instant message program) but most who reach out or show interest in chatting are on Facebook or Gtalk. The two exceptions to this that I have are my longest online friends (one who talks to me through ICQ and the other who uses AOL IM – and who also refuses to register with Facebook).
Is it just a sign we’re growing up and an evolution of the Internet in general? We (internet users) all used to be married to Prodigy and then America Online (AOL) before going independent through cable / fiber optic internet. That same evolution has taken place with social media (Myspace to Facebook). Hell, there’s even been an evolution in SMS/text messaging on phones – it’s no longer one-on-one alone / private if you use Twitter; messages limited to 140 characters do seem straight out of SMS (though users aren’t necessarily mobile. I should know).
The thing is, to get someone’s screen name on an IM client was and is more personal than friending them on Facebook or adding them to a circle on G+ (and thus getting Gtalk ability). Social media contact doesn’t translate into one-on-one, direct online chatting on a regular basis (though there are a few exceptions). Yet there’s a grander form of personal contact able to be found now through multimedia contact that’s tied to most of the IM platforms now but t more renown through clients like Snapchat or Skype. Those two programs are another sign of chat evolution, with the former being more mobile driven and the latter being more teleconferencing.
Maybe it’s just a good sign everyone’s growing up with other things to do in life besides tap-tapity-tap-tap messages to friends across the room or around the world? Maybe it’s just a sign I’m not connected to those still using IM clients? Whatever the case, it’s lonely with the chat.