Re: And the choice is ?
"I remember that Internet. There were a few freeware and shareware apps and some low-res scans of old copies of Playboy."
I still surf that internet. Oh, and you didn't mention the hobbyists that put their work online to share with other enthusiasts, Amateur artists that share art, web comics, opinion blogs, and even porn, all sites with links* to similar sites or to sites the site authors find interesting.
For social media there was Usenet and IRC. (IRC is actually still going strong, but Google took over most of Usenet, although there are still private nodes about, if you get an invite.)
Not to mention webrings, which lists various sites by topic.
*Google HATES these, and will drop your site way down in the rankings if you have them. (Remember El Reg had them?)
Want a microcosm of what the web was/should be? Start here It's on guy's accidental discovery and re-creation of the classic web.