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October 10, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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The Social Dynamics of Chatrooms

It was the eleventh of September, and armed with optimism and dogged determination to do well in the upcoming exams I pledged abstinence from Facebook until the end of exams.

Except for some small aching for its constant stimulation in the forms of links, access to friends and to their ‘lives’ I was doing pretty well. Just when I thought I had gotten the hang of cutting away virtual contact, I saw an interesting work of art by Ben Rubin called Listening Post whilst doing research for my Art History essay. In this work, the artist has created a live-update of all mentions of the word “I am” (and the sentence surrounding it) in low security chat rooms. Intrigued by this wonderful idea of tapping into the thoughts of strangers, I decided to try something I had never done before. I went on Google, and typed in ‘chat room’. I found a page called chatting.com and logged in. And so, armed with the screen name ‘Hippokiller’ and lilac italic font I entered into this mysterious realm on the 27th of September 2011.

Nervous and intrigued, I walked into the ‘foyer’ room. I scanned the conversation preceding my entry. To no surprise there were open casting calls for Bangalore girls for “friendship/chat.” There was also some vaguely boring thread about Christmas which MadelineSunshine and Enya21 were having. I watched as the room’s conversation paced past quickly. Christmas. Bangalore. Reaper, another user, talking about shooting possums.

Wonderful.

Being the open and confident person I am, I decided to quip up and said “hi”. Nothing. Christmas became a conversation about Christmas in summer compared to winter. Mr. Bangalore was joined by another man who wanted some Tamil ladies. Reaper had a friend, Within_the_darkness, and they discussed various hunting guns. It felt like I was in small room with people shouting over each other.

Like the friendly, slightly naïve person that I am, I piped up again “So, I’m new here.” Nothing. “So, why do you guys come to chat rooms?” Nothing. The chat room crowd were a tough crowd. It felt like my high school years all over again. I decided a new strategy. The next user who logged in was Urcz. I saw him log on, and said immediately, like that over-enthusiastic kid said “hi Urcz!” (I hoped would come across as a friendly conversation-starter). I was not going to be defeated by the chat space. Nothing. At this point I became disillusioned with the whole process. A virtual world filled with paedophiles, old men, desperados, and all the other rejects of society were on no terms going to reject me. Tamil man made his usual rounds. I put on my capslock and wrote TAMIL! Tamil man whispered (a chatroom term where only you and the other person can have a private conversation) “Are you Tamil?” Success. My next move was an open forum question. I asked them (the room) what they did with most of their time besides sleeping. Urcz, one of ‘in’ crowd, responded “I sit in front of the computer all day, I hate the sun” I responded “Why, are you afraid of the daylight, are you a vampire?” Urcz said “lol, yes.” I had just made my first online joke.

Even Reaper and Within_the_darkness got into the conversation about vampires. People were even starting to use my name, addressing me by the shortened nickname ‘Hippo’. I continued badgering the Tamil and Bangalore men by shouting out “TAMIL!” and “BANGALORE!” every time they did their rounds. Another user was asking for a mature woman. The one below him(?) for a 14 – 16 year old. I told them I was a mature 14 year old Tamilian. I also ‘confessed’ that I was too darn ugly to go outside and that I had no friends (perhaps if I kept staying in chat rooms that would be a self-fulfilling prophesy?). After that I had one good conversation with SouthernSkies47 about why he(?) should be out making the most of his lives and not wallow in past regrets, and another simultaneously with Urcz and MadelineSunshine about dreams. In the end, after half an hour, I was the chat room queen bee. Satisfied, I logged off and finally started my essay.

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  1. Delia says:

    I’d vneture that this article has saved me more time than any other.

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