I was watching “You’ve Got Mail” mail the other day. Yes, I am a sappy romantic comedies kinda a guy, or gay guy! Don’t argue with me, it’s one of the most wonderful movies ever made, I said no arguing! Just accept it.
Watching the movie made me wonder, what happen to chat rooms? You might remember them, if not they were forums that allowed 30-40 people into a room to type their hearts desire. It became the hot new trend of the internet around 1996. The rooms were created by one user and the name of the room set the parameters of the chat room. You would find chat rooms with every name possible, to talk about baking, religion, sex or even dog admirers. Hosted by providers like AOL of Excite. The predominant and most commonly accessed rooms were sex related chat rooms. Namely allowing people to connect online and eventually in reality. It gave a whole new meaning to the term “one nighter” and the term “hook up” became a staple in most peoples vocabulary.
The wave of typing (talking) to strangers created many positive and negative outcomes. The positives, people became close friends or even created long distant friendships. I actually made one friend on a chat room and we are still friends to date. Others who chatted for physical needs even managed to create a relationship, whether it be long or short. I could have checked that box but it never blossomed, sadly the box I frequently checked were hook ups!
The negative was a broad spectrum, bullies, stalkers and even people being attacked or killed from a chat group real time meeting. As the world of chat rooms progressed in the 90’s, the common occurrence of incidents originating from a chat room could be seen on the nightly new programs several times a week. It’s a sad moment in humanity, when we can’t create a positive environment without someone wicked turning it into a evil tool of harm.
Chat rooms evolved eventually because people grew away from them. No longer cool. The chat room when from words on a screen to a video chat, like the site Chatroulette. Where a user with a camera connected to their computer would enter a one on one chat room. The downside, you or the other user can just click a button and move onto the next person. No this wasn’t an advancement of one on one socialization. Instead, tools like this are grooming our eyes to judge a person by their cover, rather than their thoughts and voice. But all good things eventually fall to the waist side, today Chatroulette is now become obsolete and with the launch of Airtime. Which lets face it, is the same thing as being on Facebook but instead of sending your friend a typed message. You can click on their name and you can say hello face to face.
Now I will admit, back in the 90‘s, my days in the chat rooms were not to talk about crockery or exchanging recipes. It was more of sexual nature of discussion. Although I do remember prancing into the religious chat rooms from time to time. To hash out my personal struggle with religion. Oddly enough I encountered more hate in the gay groups than the religion groups. People would create dummy accounts just to harass people, of coarse with video chat, times have not changed. Like Chatroulette, pop up on the screen is some jerk screaming at you, “ASSHOLE” “FAG” and then they click the next button. Fun! Right!
Now back to the movie, “You’ve Got Mail” captures a time of innocence that really does not exist anymore. I can’t believe it will be almost 20 years since I first signed onto a chat room. I did Chatroulette once when it launched and that one time was the last time. Such a sad reminder that the internet is not only penetrating our privacy buts it’s even affect ability to socialize. Case in point, the nature of the invites and how it’s etiquette is dying a slow death. I’ll leave that for another post. For now, put down that phone and send a friends or family member a letter or email, to say hello and start a conversation.