The two things I love most about the Internet are finding other people who share my interests, and finding decent people who disagree with me on topics I consider interesting. The former encourage my existing thoughts and interests, and the latter sharpen and hone my existing positions, or challenge my assumptions, sometimes to the degree that I completely change my mind on a topic.
The early web was populated with curious geeks like myself; finding someone who shared your interests was as easy as finding the right web-ring on Geocities or the top result on Yahoo! (which, at that time, was a human-curated directory of the web).
The conversations in those days were less contentious, but they were also less diverse. You could go looking for people with completely divergent opinions and beliefs, but you weren’t as likely to just stumble upon them, nor have them show up in the comments on your blog.
As time went on and the comments got worse and spam took over, blogs declined, and many of the people I “followed” online turned toward their own close friends and family via Facebook or private Twitter accounts. It seemed like the golden-time of the Internet was over, and it wasn’t coming back.
My Facebook circle never grew larger than my IRL friends & family (and I’ve since left), and while Twitter seemed like it might be a natural replacement for blogging, the conversation never rose to the level that blogs were at in the early 2000s. Instagram was fun for a while, until it got choked by ads and stories took over.
I think podcasts are finally filling the gap for me.
No matter now niche your interest it’s easy to find a podcast from people who are as excited about it as you are.
And on the flip side, you can easily find compelling people talking intelligently about complicated topics. They might even change your mind about something.