Frankasaurus has a great blog post about her experiences growing up online, comparing the impact of chat rooms on a socially awkward teenagers with the experience of using social media today. As she writes about her early years in online chat:
It wasn’t long before I went from chatting with friends and total strangers to talking to people I didn’t know well at my school. This was a cop-out in some ways and good in others. I would never have talked to these people at school, nor would they have likely talked to me, without the buffer of a chat window. However, when it was time to meet face-to-face with classmates (I never met strangers for obvious reasons), I knew that they would think it odd if I didn’t act in accordance with who they knew me to be: my “online personality” – the person I actually was, as opposed to the person who couldn’t figure out how to be herself around others. This forced me to come out of my shell, and by the time high school was over, I was still shy, awkward, and socially backwards (still am, really), but not nearly to the degree I had been (and I have a far cooler shoe collection).
It’s a refreshing take on how online conversation can affect teenagers, and one that provides a useful counterweight to all the hand-wringing over cyber-bullies, sexting etc. among teens.