Cyberchat ~ Who is that behind your screen?

You smell fresh coffee.  You make your way to the kitchen and pour yourself a cup.  You stumble over to your desk and sit down with your coffee.  Your faithful friend is looking back at you as you sit there half dressed and your hair uncombed.  It is comforting to know that your friend is always there, waiting for you.

With the help or your friend and the push of a button, you have the power to travel anywhere you desire.  You can shop anywhere you wish or delve into some of the finest libraries known to man.  You can travel into a fantasy, venture into other worlds, or visit your favorite friends all over the world.

You ease back into your chair and make a gesture with your hand, you are prepared to travel into cyberland.  A smile creeps across your face.  You gaze at the face of your friend as you decide where you want to go.  And why?

What compels a person to go exploring in the cyberworld?  Is it loneliness? Is it a way to merely pass the time away?  Is it a way to meet other people without the fear of rejection?  Could it be the thrill of the chase?  Different people chat for different reasons; some are harmless and some are not.  You may feel safe hidden behind your screen, but how safe are you really?

Do you really know who you’re talking to?  Several people in cyberland pretend to be what they are not.  Many like to masquerade as the opposite sex and are out there just to find a little excitement.  How do you know if the person you’re talking with is telling you the truth?  Do you really know if the person is male or female, single or married?  Some claim to be wealthy, and others will tell you they are built like body builders.

With most things in life there are always a few people out there who must spoil things for everyone.  The cyberworld is no different.  There are always a few who take pleasure in frightening others or some who will try to get close to you so they can meet you and take advantage of you.  It is always wise not to give out too much personal information until you know the person well.

I have experienced many peculiar situations in several chat programs over many years.  I once met an alien from another planet who was living here amongst us.  He explained that he was studying emotions.  He wanted me to explain what a smile was, and how it felt to be happy.  He was harmless and I enjoyed the challenge of putting these emotions into words.  It tested my writing skills and he was not threatening in any way.

I have met a few people through cyberland.  In cyberland it is easy to hide imperfections behind a mask, allowing only the good qualities to be seen.  Many meetings end up in disappointment; perhaps we set our hopes too high looking for perfection which doesn’t exist.

I have seen how chatting led to the breakdown of relationships.  Many get caught up in a fantasy world and forget that the person they are chatting with also has faults.  Often, they begin to neglect their families.  When they discover their cyber partner is indeed only human they are often devastated because they have pushed their own family away.

You can become familiar with people in chat rooms; they become like a part of your family.  I will never forget the night our chat group received a notice from the mother of a chatter, or so we thought.  The notice said he had been killed in a car accident.  The women in the group spent days crying over him.  A man in the group began questioning the validity of this notice.  He found it odd that he could not find any information on the boy’s death.  I had his phone number from a girl who was living with me at the time and really cared about him.  I nervously called his house.  His mother answered.  I immediately got the impression this woman was not grieving the death of a son.  I told her how sorry I was for her loss.  She asked what I meant so I explained how the group had received a message that her son had been killed.  She had no idea what was going on and told me her son was standing right next to her.  She asked me if I wanted to speak with him.  The phone suddenly went dead.

The group began piecing things together and decided he was just a teenager who pretended to be older.  He had told a woman in the group that he was going to marry her.  She was a much older woman.  He probably got caught up in his own exaggerations and didn’t know how to get out of them, but the fact is, his actions affected a lot of people.  It taught me that a person really can’t be sure who is behind that screen.

Cyberland has yet another problem.  It is full of children.  There are many cyber wolves roaming around looking for innocent children.  Young teenagers often claim to be older.  it is very important for parents to teach children not to give out information to someone they don’t know.  Parents have a responsibility to know what their children do while they are taking a journey into the cyberworld.

Finding friends in cyberland can be a wonderful learning experience, but you  must choose your friends on the internet just as carefully as you would in the real world.  Cyberland has a few more challenges in this respect; you must weigh each word carefully and decide if it is the truth.

With the help of friends which I met all over the world, I have developed many skills.  I was convinced I could go back to college and I became interested in graphic arts with the advice of a special friend on the internet who was also a graphic artist.   I learned how to create websites, and learned some programming. Once I began attending college I found what I loved most again. . . writing.  However I also learned a hard lesson.  This person who I believed was my best friend lied to me too.  He played with my heart and broke it.  I found out he had left his wife and was living with another woman.  He had gotten her pregnant and even had a very young child.  He kept telling me he was pig, but I didn’t believe it until I found a photo of him with the other woman.

If you go out to explore the Cyberworld remember to step carefully.  The cyberworld is just like any adventure.  It is full of new experiences and mystery.  There is a lot of information out there.  All adventures no matter how worthwhile have dangers.  If you prepare yourself and plan your steps carefully the cyberworld is a fascinating adventure right at your fingertips.

© Joy Elaine

Art work created by Lenard Lakofka

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