The 2017 way of chatting with a stranger on the internet
It might seem like a totally foreign concept to everyone today if you said you wanted talk to a stranger, a random person that you have never met. How many users do we interact with on a daily basis on social media that we do not really know at all? If you look at your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media accounts, how many of those folks are strangers? What about commenting on forums or even e-mails? We actually "chat" with complete strangers all the time.
When did chatting become so popular?
Before the internet became the massive multi-faceted beast it is today, before our mothers and even our grannies were online, long before the smartphone claimed world domination, we had something else. Something a lot more simple. We had chat rooms. Complete strangers from all four corners of the earth would gather in a virtual room, under a cloak of complete anonymity and talk with each other. Yes, they are still around today but they were a big thing in the early days on the internet.
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Not being that well traveled in my youth, I was fascinated to be able to sit at my computer in the middle of nowhere and talk to a middle-aged man from Luxemburg, a young lady from Spain, a rather obnoxious American, I forget which part, and a chap from Australia. Well, at least, that is where they said they came from. They could have all been from Timbucktoo for all I knew. My memory fails me now, this was many years ago, but they all had groovy online nicknames or handles like Spanminx69 and BadAss48. If I recall correctly, was Boo1001, or something like that. It was fun for a while but my interest soon waned, but the rooms did not. It was a really big thing in the 90s.
How many chat rooms were there the old days?
There were countless chat rooms, most with sub rooms as well as multiple private chats all going on at the same time. They soon became all consuming for many of them and literally became their life. It was often their only form of social interaction or contact with other humans, albeit faceless and nameless humans of unknown origins. Let's face it, I could be a World War II fighter pilot one day and the next day pitch up a missionary from darkest Africa. Who is going to know?
Everyone had fake names and random avatar pictures they had simply cut and pasted from somewhere else. In the early days, images/site/articles and options were so limited you would often see a number of different users all sporting the same avatar picture. Some even took it way way way too seriously as I soon discovered and was made to feel most unwelcome for not being one the regular gang.
"Research demonstrates that face-to-face communication integrates non-verbal cues and involves better turn-taking behaviors, pivotal during social interactions. Unfortunately, our digital age isolates people. Even your social media accounts curate information so it doesn't challenge your world view or expand your horizons."
Anyway, as I was saying, some people were consumed by chat rooms and it literally became an addiction, they gave it a name, meaning it must be real. Some of them did not bathe for days on end, rarely slept or ate and never went out for fear of missing out on something interesting on the chat. Chatting addiction, really, it sounds like my mother-in-law. But for some unfortunate people, this was a reality.
What do people use it for?
But who are we to judge? Some people get consumed by their careers; others have affairs, turn to drugs or drink too much. Others too will come home and vegetate in front of the TV for hours on end, some becoming obsessed with soap operas, even game shows. So what if some people find comfort in a community of strangers they will never meet, talking all night about whatever and wherever the conversation takes them?
It can be quite liberating to chat with a stranger as opposed to colleagues, your partner's friends, the other parents from the kid's school. You could be sitting in your grubby tracksuit with slippers on your feet and no one will judge you.
Of course, one of the big spin-offs of the casual talking scenario was when it lead to more romantic, even sexual situations. This was, well, still is, remarkably common. If I quoted you figures I would be guessing and if I were to Google them, well who is to say they are accurate. But the truth is, an astounding number of couples over the last decade or so met online, many in chat rooms. And the truth be told, many of them are very happy together, or at least as happy as any other couple that met at a bar, the bus stop of the fruit and veg isle at the local supermarket.
It is becoming increasingly hard for single people to meet other singles these days, especially as they get older. These rooms provide the perfect opportunity to meet a lot of people in a short space of time. If two people find that they hit it off online, they take the conversation private and get to know each other better. If all goes well and it is geographically feasible, even sometimes when it is not, the two will meet. Hopefully by this stage they have been honest about such things as age, appearance and the fact that they are not NASA engineers.
So hats off to them. Even if you do not find the love of your life, you can still share some fascinating conversations with a diverse group of people and hopefully gain something from the experience.
Can you find love online?
The flip side to finding love online is the vast number of relationships that have been destroyed by cybersexual flirting. People that would never dream of even a minor indiscretion in the real world, somehow feel liberated and adventurous behind the safety of their keyboard. Many truly see nothing wrong with their actions and claim it is innocent banter, Tch tch. Often however, something that might well be innocent can be construed as highly incriminating when seen by a partner out of context. One needs to tread very carefully in these situations and try and take a step back and look at it in perspective. It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of interaction, even if it is just a bunch of letters on a screen.