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The Economist (subscription required) has an interesting piece on sex and the Internet, which revolves around the graph pictured to the right. While the online porn industry was valued at $1 billion back in 2002 by America’s National Research Council, the latest data shows that social networking traffic is set to take over the number one spot any day now. It’s also pointed out that sex is often the first mover with technology before the mainstream is ready to adopt it for everyday use (such has been the case with photography, videocassettes, and satellite television).
But before we assume all is well in Zion, let’s take a look at what these social networking sites are used for:
The highly popular virtual world Second Life rides a fine line when categorized. Virtual commerce is beginning to make a serious impression. But no economy, virtual or not, can seem to exist without sex-related activities as a part. In the case of Second Life, some claim that 30% of transactions involve sex or gambling with Edward Castronova of Indiana University estimating that sex is “a substantial portion, perhaps even the majority” of economic transactions in Second Life.
So how does social networking relate to sex? As it turns out, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The Economist claims that “such sites [social networking] are often used to find and attract potential mates… Porn sites may have reached a climax, but sex remains as potent online as ever.”
Even if a clever way to end an article in true Economist style, it does seem to be trying too hard to remind us that not much has changed. I’m actually hoping something has changed in regard to sex on the Internet.
In my previous life of yesteryear, I used to make housecalls to fix computers. So many times the problem was porn, not in a “breaking up the family” sort of way but more in a “I ventured off to one site and now my computer is useless because of popups, redirects, and background changes” way. Why must curiosity toward sex be misinterpreted as an invitation for complete loss of control of one’s computer?
The idea of sex on the Internet doesn’t really bother me. But the idea of sex on the Internet being connected to a virus-like, “we now control your computer” response is extremely annoying. So here’s my addendum to the Economist article: If sex is still to be a popular part of the Internet via social networking, that’s actually good news when compared to how sex has been handled online before.
Most social networking site I’ve seen seem to respect the user, something many sex sites still haven’t figured out.