O, the chat room! You may no longer be popular, but I remember you fondly. Conversing with strangers, on any topic, at any time of day or night! The thrill of a pop-up message from MrRight22, inviting you to a Private Chat!
Confession: my friends and I didn’t use chat rooms to chat. We used them as social science experiments. Many an hour of summer break we spent dipping in and out of chat rooms, observing people’s reactions to our comments.
One of our favorite avatars was “Pog”, whose modus operendi was interjecting absolute nonsense into a normal chat and then ditching. For example:
Brian: So my dad says I have to go to piano camp, but I really don’t feel like it.
Mary: That sucks, Brian. Do you hate the piano or something?
Brian: Naw, it’s just that I already know how to play, you know?
<Pog has entered the chat room.>
Mary: Hi, Pog. a/s/l?
Brian: So, like I was saying, I’m pretty much a prodigy or whatever…
John: I play the piano, too. But I like the guitar better.
Mary: Wow, there are a lot of musicians in this chat room! He, he!
Pog: I ate a piano.
John: Yeah, I can play like Jimmy Hendrix, with like, a Pink Floyd twist…
Mary: Wait, did someone just say they ATE a piano?
Brian: Yeah, what the ****, Pog?!
Pog: It was delicious.
<Pog has left the chat room.>
We never got personal or bully-y, but we were teenagers and said stupid teenager things. One time, we pissed off a hacker who threatened to send us a computer virus. I don’t know if that was really possible, but we shut the computer right down, just in case. We were more careful after that.
The chat room to the budding social scientist was a laboratory, providing hours of research on social codes, courting behavior, herd mentality – with live, unsuspecting subjects! You didn’t even have to chat to be a part of it. You could just “listen in”, like sitting in a thousand subway cars, catching patches of countless juicy conversations.
I’m sure you’re all too young to remember the chat room. You’ll never know those heady summer days of silly banter before it was “trolling”, innocent eavesdropping before it was, well, creepy and weird.