My answer to:
From 1996–2007 I saw the World Wide Web, discussion forums and other places as opportunities to socialise with like minded people. Over the years we went from one platform to another using nicknames rather than our real identity. in 2006–2007 there was a shift. When Twitter came about I would post about my dissertation progress and eventually converse with more and more people. Eventually the @ symbol started to be used for answers and then we discussed meeting in person.
The online conversation moved from being about ideas and a virtual self to meeting in person. Twitter changed us from anonymous web users to friends in meat space as it was called at the time. At the same time as this occurred we also had Facebook and here the opposite took place. We took friends whom we drank, studied and collaborated with and added them to an online network. In effect social media extended our real life and our real life extended our online life. Social media became a lounge.
This was short lived. Within a year social media experts, marketers, celebrities and other characters took social media from being a conversation medium to being an observer/follower medium. The things that you worry about in your post are a consequence of the loss of engagement. We went from social networks where the more time you devoted to a network the more connections you had to a social environment where the more famous you had the more followers you had. Those followers don’t know you as a person. They know you as a projection. You become an illusion, an ideal. You lose your identity.
In a sense those of us that are still relatively unknown can be genuine. We follow those we know and they follow us. We also have mutual friends.