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Chatting on the net

by Sarah Horrocks Published on 25 June 2008

Chatting on the net is increasingly popular, used to keep in touch with friends and maybe even make new ones. Why do we love it so much?

Millions of converts
15 years ago, chatting was still a form of person-to-person conversation. Today, tens of millions of internet users chat to each other all around the globe. The interactive and instantaneous nature of the internet has made virtual conversation possible. Chatting started out in the form of discussion boards and forums on all kinds of websites, and then along came chat rooms, MSN Messenger and Mercury. Now all you need is your computer, a good connection and a bit of time on your hands to chat to anyone.

Jargon
Created for discussing ideas, points of view, giving info and advice, discussion boards have sparked an unprecedented craze and a whole new language. We can discuss anything with friends or unknowns, people from the same street or people on the other side of the world, in complete freedom, at any time of the day or night. And some codes are universal, like smileys and standard abbrevitaions like 'lol' (as well as ‘trolls’* that flood many forums).

Identity
The other advantage (and disadvantage) of chatting on the net is the anonymity it guarantees. You can say whatever you like hidden behind a username and become someone else behind your screen. Out with shyness, good manners and other complexes that can get in the way of ordinary life. We can become the person that we dream about being, without worrying about what other people think. We can embellish our routine daily lives and invent exciting ones, say out loud what we only dare to think normally, and even approach people without having to meet them, which can help create friendships and even relationships more easily.

Meeting people on the net
Because of the many opportunities to make ties on the internet, it wasn't long before chatting became the best way to meet people on the internet and keep in touch with your new circle of online friends. We can let go, chat and flirt. Specialised dating sites also have their own forums and other instant messaging services to help members get to know each other. You really can find love on the net!

Meeting up in person
Although it’s easy to escape to the virtual world for a few hours, actually meeting in person isn't easy and should be approached with caution. Whether you've found a friend or a date on the net, you might find the friendship or relationship doesn't work in the real world because it's not always founded on honesty (more of an escape and opening to the world than a solid link that we can rely on). Relationships developed on the web should stay on the web. They usually end when one person starts talking about a real meeting.

Be aware of the risks
Because chatting online allows us to hide behind a profile that masks our true identity, we never really know whether we're talking to a paedophile or psychopath. Unfortunately these people do exist on the web, which is why you need to be careful and vigilant about what to say to strangers on the internet. Never give out personal information. Bad things don’t just happen to others. Chatting on the net can also become addictive because it’s simple, reassuring and a source of satisfaction for many. Little by little, people can get stuck in a virtual bubble and cut themselves off from the real world. So be aware not to drop your real friends, your family and your work for a virtual world!

* trolls are people who go on discussion boards and in chat rooms to insult and annoy other users, often causing chat rooms to empty.

by Sarah Horrocks

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