Remember the good old days when you’d get home from school, pop on the family computer, dial up the internet, logon to AIM, and start chatting with strangers on the AOL chatrooms? It was as dangerous as picking up a hitchhiker but its something we all loved doing. After a long lockdown, and with winter coming up, maybe it’s time we put talking to anonymous people on the web back on the menu. Here are some things to consider:
- Strangers Have Common Ground Right Now. There are only so many Zoom calls you can do with friends and family before you need someone else to talk to. So sites like Omegle and Chatroulette have been booming in lockdown and psychotherapist Kate Ecke attributes that to our collective trauma.
- People Are Exploring Themselves Online. We use chatrooms to try out new personalities without any real-world consequences. It’s like larping but via messenger. And speaking of escapism, family therapist Dawn Friedman says that with forums like the AOL chatrooms also let us talk “to someone who lives far away or who’s doing something totally different in their lives can feel a little bit like a vacation.”
- Practice Safe Cyber Socializing. Now obviously there are some risks which is the reason why AOL chatrooms shutdown in the first place, but that risk hasn’t stopped people from seeking out strangers on other sites. But if you practice good Internet habits like not giving out personal info or images that could be used for blackmail, would it really be that much worse than Twitter?