In February of 1997, I acquired an old Macintosh computer. I had balked against delving into the world of the internet - I was an outdoors kind of gal, into working horses and training dogs. I wasn't interested in technology! But I ended up with that computer, and so I set up an account and ventured online. What an eye-opener THAT has been!
My brother came over and helped me set up my account. He logged on, and brought up Webcrawler. Turning to me with a grin, he said "check this out" and he typed in "BABES" in the search box. Thousands of matches popped up on the screen, and he clicked on one. My jaw dropped as photos of naked women appeared. I think at that point I slugged him on the arm and said "JEFF!!!!!". He just laughed.
I began doing searches of my own, and was quickly mesmerized by the amount of information available online. I typed in "motivational dog training" and up popped sites on clicker-training, positive reinforcement, behavior modification. I typed in "music" and was inundated with thousands of mp3 sites and more.
And soon, I typed in "chatrooms".
I chose a chat link, and began to check it out. I wasn't sure about signing up for anything (that newbie cautiousness, you know) but I didn't see too much harm in it and so I chose a handle and registered. I headed into the first floor and checked out a crowded room.
WOW. That's all I could really say at that time. WOW! Here were people from all over the world, chatting together in one place! I loved it. I became hooked immediately. Chatting became my favorite free-time activity. Back then, there would often be a couple of thousand people chatting at once. I kept a notebook of those I talked with and where they were from. I pulled out my atlas and started checking out all the places people lived - geography was never a great subject of mine and I felt like I suddenly had a reason to know those countries better.
But with my addiction to chatting came some tough times and some tougher realizations. I found someone who changed my life forever - someone who, even to this day and through death, I love completely. The love was incredible, the pain doubly so. And yet I would never erase what happened, that year of my life.
I also learned a number of other lessons:
Words are as powerful as we allow them to be.
When you're dealing with the written word on a regular basis, you depend on the way you can bring out mental images and emotions just by use of those words. But in the chat venue, we must always remember that these are simply words and only items of power IF we let them be. I have seen so many times, in public online forums, people get so worked up (to the point of foolishness) simply by some insult thrown to them across a computer screen.
There are more perversions than I ever thought possible.
In my explorations online (some innocent, some not) I have come to realize that there are perversions out there that never even crossed my (then) sexually naive mind. People go to great lengths to fulfill their sometimes cruel and disgusting desires. I can understand having fantasies and thoughts you can't always control - that is natural. But acting on those fantasies and thoughts is a terrible thing at times. I didn't realize the extent of people's perversities.
If I had kids - teenagers especially - I don't know if I could ever let them have access to a computer without supervision! Even an innocent search can turn up some pretty rank sites.
Dreams do not mean reality.
Chatting with so many people, you are bound to run across someone that touches you emotionally. We all dream of someone we can love - and who will love US. But there are many more dreams offered online, than reality.
If you choose to allow yourself to become emotionally bound to someone you have never met face-to-face, then you are entering into a type of courtship that involves fantasy to a certain degree. You must realize this, accept it and work through it if you expect to come out of it with your heart still intact.
Last thoughts -
As we head into the year 2005, I look back over the 8 years I've been online. I've laughed and loved, hurt and cried. I've shared exquisite moments with one I've met online in r/t, and been walked on and used by others. I've met disgusting people, wonderful people, liars and cheats and a rare honest person. I've spent hours online that would have been more productive elsewhere.
Do I regret it? No.
Chatting has expanded my way of thinking. It has brought to me realizations and knowledge that I was lacking in my small section of the world. It has allowed me to experience concepts of human behavior that I would have been unlikely to experience real-time. It's allowed me to form incredible friendships, and to feel a love beyond anything I had ever known.
To you who are new to chatting: go in with an open mind and yet use a sprinkle of caution in your dealings. Be aware that most "love" online is merely infatuation with someone who is showing you only what they want you to see. Keep in mind that lust is more common than love online, and too many throw the word "love" around without much concern for the consequences. Use the internet to expand your horizons, but also know that people online can fill that horizon with dark storm clouds.
And above all .. don't give up on real-life experiences .. they are more important than chatting.