On the Internet, socialization refers to the ways that people communicate and the methods they use to do so. Socialization describes the customs, quirks and language unique to a particular culture. The Internet, while involving millions of people from countless different countries and backgrounds, has developed some cultural quirks all its own.
The Internet offers many different ways to socialize. Email is a simple form of one-to-one communication. Instant messaging programs offer more immediate forms of chatting, while video call software allows users to socialize visually, not just through text chat. Evolving technology means that new ways to communicate online are constantly developing. For example, Facebook — the world’s largest social network at the time of publication — includes elements of text-based, photo sharing, private message and instant messenger forms of communication.
Online socialization requires a computer or Internet-enabled device such as a smartphone. Online socialization doesn’t necessarily lead to fewer real-world relationships. Some evidence suggests that Internet users are more likely to belong to a group and be actively involved. For example, 69 percent of Internet users attended an event or meeting in the previous month compared to 54 percent of nonusers, according to Pew Research Center data.
Like the offline world, Internet socialization involves its own culture and subcultures. Internet “memes” occur when an image, phrase or video is shared rapidly through the social Web. The meme then becomes a reference point for Internet users. Other forms of Internet culture include the shorthand expressions used in chat rooms and social networks. The term “LOL” for example — meaning laughing out loud — developed from Internet socializing in forums and instant messaging.
Facebook has more than 800 million active users in 2012. The microblogging platform Twitter has 100 million, while the business communication network LinkedIn claims 64 million users. Internet socialization involves a huge number of people worldwide. Many American users consider Internet socializing as having a positive impact. For example, a 2010 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that around 85 percent of respondents to a survey considered that by 2020 they see the Internet as a mostly positive influence on their social lives.