Opening the Chat Room Door


Dear Mr & Mrs Properly: Please don’t laugh, but I went into a chat room the other day. I hadn’t been in a chat room for at least 15 years, and boy have things changed. I feel like I need a handbook for modern-day chat room etiquette. Any interest in putting one together for me? Signed, Slightly Embarrassed

Dear Slightly Embarrassed

We are slightly shocked! How old are you? Sorry, that wasn’t very polite of us. But we are slightly shocked. Once upon a time, we, too went into chat rooms, mostly hosted by AOL. Our best friend was far more tech savvy, and basically lived on IRC. Her time spent eventually led to a husband (so was clearly not wasted),  and ours led to, well, extremely good typing skills.

We thought technology had moved on, so we’re interested hear that people are still chatting online. A small amount of research tells us that yes, chat rooms are alive and well and very much still populated, and that instant, live, anonymous chatting provides people with a safe way of experiencing human contact, as well as with instant gratification.

So if it’s going to be happening (and if you’re going to be doing it, Slightly Embarrassed), then here are some things to keep in mind.

First and Foremost, Anonymity Always

Don’t think about disclosing your information, and most definitely don’t ask anyone to disclose theirs.

ASL Is not A-OK

‘ASL pls’ is a phrase that dates back to the dark ages of online chatting. It then wormed its way to forums and instant messaging, and has survived almost 20 years of online use. It stands for ‘Age/Sex/Location please’. Most grown-up users (and those are the only ones we’re thinking about here) will find it inappropriate and indicative of a lack of experience in chatting online. And those who are thinking of using it should always consider the possibility of running into some trolls and falling prey to their scathing sarcasm (or worse).

Private Message (PM) with Approval Only

Most chat rooms offer the option of a private chat, for times when a relationship is close enough, or their discussion not appropriate, suitable or meant for the general public. Rule of thumb: if you’ve ‘known’ someone online for less than 10 minutes, don't approach that person for a private chat. After all, you wouldn’t ask someone you’ve just met at a club to join you for a private conversation in a secluded corner of the room, would you? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

CAPS and Colours Are So 2002

Remember the time when chat rooms looked like virtual rainbows? People did their best to be unique by going over the top with font selection, size and colour. If you’re not old enough to remember this, and think it makes sense to use distinctive font markers, think again. They’re tiring on the eye and, much like the ‘ASL pls’ denote a lack of maturity, experience, and respect for the comfort of those you’re chatting with.

Have fun, Slightly Embarrassed!

Have something to tell us about this article?