Big on the internet, small in real life

This is showing my age, but the first two computers my family owned did not have modems. I remember when a more tech savvy friend brought over his modem and showed me how it worked. This was before the internet was known, so he showed me how to log onto bulletin boards. My first two thoughts were "That is really cool" and "Why would anyone spend money to do that?" If my third thought had been porn, I would be very rich today, but oh well. Having a conversation via bulletin boards is in just about every way inferior to having a conversation in person or over the phone. The only way it is better is that you can easily find people of similar interests to have the conversations.

So much has changed with the internet since then, but the fact remains is that chatting on computers is great for finding people with similar interests. For example, my favorite television show is Top Chef, so every Thursday morning I check out the blogs and forums to see what people are saying about the latest episode. To judge from the interest online Top Chef is a wildly popular show. However, this is not true. Sopranos was a wildly popular show and if I wanted to hear what people thought of the latest episode I didn't need to go online I could hear about it on the radio, television, around the office, and in newspapers. The fact that I have to go online to discuss Top Chef is symptomatic of the fact that it is a niche show. No one I know watches it and if I called in to discuss on a radio talk show, they would hang up on me. That is the great thing about the internet, it lets you socialize with people who share your niche interests. 

However, this can give people in those niches the wrong idea about how big those niches are. For example, I used to post on a message board with a lot of queers on it. One topic that would come up is how many queers are there in the US. Many people seemed convinced that 10% of the population is queer. Every survey done shows that the number of queers in the US is between 1 and 5 % of the population, yet many were and are convinced that the real number is at least double and most likely triple what the surveys show. One of the reasons is that queers are overrepresented on the internet and if you spend alot of time on the internet you get a skewed view of the world.

From my perspective the world would be a better place if the fans of Top Chef were as easy to find in the real word as they are on the internets and if libertarian ideas were as popular as offline as they are online. Sadly, this is not the case. Similarly, it is great that Ron Paul does so well in online polls and his fundraising is going well, but he has as much chance of being elected president as I do.

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Ten Percent

Actually, I think the 10% figure comes from the Kinsey Report. It's almost certainly wrong, but that's where people get it.

Depends heavily on definition, too

The percentage of people who identify as exclusively gay is likely going to be different than the percentage of people who have had some homosexual encounter at some point in their lives, which is in turn different than the percentage of people who are turned on but have never acted on it.