“Chatting” is a phenomenon that has existed since the dawn of the Internet. We’re not talking about the kind of chats you have with friends over coffee — in this context, “chatting” and “chat rooms” refer to activity that takes place on specific internet forums.
Online chats closely resemble actual, real-time conversations. Individuals log into a system with a registered name and can then communicate directly with anyone else logged into the same system. Within seconds of writing a comment online, everyone else logged into the system can view and immediately respond to their remarks.
Chat rooms can be used to carry out formal or informal discussions about current events, political or news stories, business plans, and many other issues. Chats can be used to provide immediate feedback or responses to social situations — a kind of “hyper gossip” format that can be used to gauge a population’s response to something much faster than news surveys or opinion polls. Chats can be used by students to present and describe their work to others, in an educational setting, and people can look for feedback or advice from other chat participants. At their most basic, chats can promote community among groups of people who otherwise would be unable to communicate without the speed available from chatting via the internet.
Where to Chat
Chat rooms can be found all over the internet. Here are just a few places to start looking for the perfect chat room for your discussions:
Once you log in to these sites, you’ll see various categories for chats, for everything ranging from substance abuse recovery to ‘adult’ or ‘erotic’ chat. Figure out what kind of chat you’re looking for — be it “Fraternity and Sorority Chat”, “Dallas Cowboys Chat”, or what have you, and jump right in. Just be aware of some basic chat ettiquette.
Do not verbally abuse, attack, embarrass, or threaten anyone else in the chat room, no matter what they might say to you. This is known as “flaming”, and you will be likely banned or kicked off the chat venue you’re using for too much “flaming”. Sure, you are bound to find some troublemakers on the Internet, but your best course of action is to ignore them or leave the chat room altogether.
Do not use obscene, offensive, or sexually explicit language. Like your mother told you, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Never type your messages in a chat room USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This is a common beginner’s mistake — maybe people think others can’t see their words, or they want to differentiate between what they type and what others type. However, on the Internet, this is considered “screaming” and of course yelling at someone is always considered rude. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase while chatting in a chat room, just type an asterisk symbol (*) before and after your word or phrase. In some rooms, you can also type in different colors, or type words in bold type. This is a widely recognized way to get your point across without being rude.
Unless you are in a chat room specifically designed for people who are looking for a love interest, try not to constantly bug people about their gender or their age — it will seem like you’re “cruising” the chat room for someone to talk dirty with. There are plenty of chat rooms designed for this type of chatting — point your browser to ‘adult’ chat if you’re looking for dirty talk.
Finally, and a personal pet peeve, don’t jump into a chat unless you know what the chat room conversation is about. While in a chat room, keep your messages short enough to digest quickly — there is plenty of time to continue the conversation after people have digested and responded to what you’ve said. Long messages will take up a ton of time and space, and this is considered rude in a chat room.
In general, behave in a chat room the way you would behave in any room of strangers.
Using Chat Rooms for Dating
A popular use of chatting is to set up potential future dates. You’ll have to find chat rooms specific to this purpose, and it would be a good idea to locate a chat room focused on dating in your area. It would be a shame to make an early “love connection” with someone who lives several states away.
An example of a dating chat room can be found at http://www.chat-avenue.com/datingchat.html. At this site, you can register and chat with singles from your area interested in finding dates.
What should you talk about in a dating chat room? The topics and etiquette for chat room dating are much the same as in standard chat rooms. Along with etiquette, it’s important to remember what topics are appropriate for chat rooms and which ones aren’t. Since the Internet doesn’t put you in a face to face situation with your chat partner, it’s easy to be more bold and less timid with questions. You just have to be careful that you don’t invade someone’s privacy by asking a question that is too personal or forward.
Some appropriate chat topics and questions are listed here.
- What do you do for a living?
- What are your favorite hobbies?
- What are your interests?
- What’s your favorite book / movie?
- What do you look for in a partner?
- Where are you from?
- Some topics and questions to avoid are like those listed here:
- What is your address?
- What is your last name?
- Have you ever been married before?
- What are your religious or political views?
As with everything, there are exceptions to these rules. If you’re in a specifically “themed” chat room, the acceptable nature of certain questions changes. For example, if you are in a chat room for Republicans, it’s ok to discuss political views. Otherwise, hold off until you get to know someone better, just as you would if you met them “in real life”. Also, even if you’re on a dating chat site, it is never a good idea to ask someone why they are single and looking online. This is an embarassing question, and will get you nowhere.
Chat rooms and chatting are hugely popular on the internet — although since the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, there popularity has waned a bit. Still, if you’re looking to meet friends or potential dates, there may be no better way to get your feet wet than to jump into a chat room. After all, your identity is mostly hidden, and you can practice your “dating” and “people” skills without the potential embarassment that comes from face to face meetings.