Chat Etiquette

Behave Yourself!

Have people completely lost their minds? Have people forgotten that they're chatting with real, live people in chatrooms, or AOL, or ICQ or IRC? I'm beginning to think so, since a lot of people these days don't even treat others with the most common of courtesies.

In my sixteen years of chat experience, I've been in charge of numerous chatrooms. I've pretty much seen it all -- from the most polite chatters to the rudest ones. During my four-year tenure as the Chatting Online Guide at About.com, I was in charge of three chatrooms. As these rooms were all java-based, people with little to no prior chatting experience would show up and not understand the rules of online chat.

Most people who chat tend to have chatted for awhile. Even if they've only been in chatrooms for a couple of months or so, they tend know the basics of chatroom behaviour. For example, people know not to type in CAPS ALL THE TIME, BECAUSE IT MEANS YOU'RE YELLING, even if you don't mean to yell. Most of the time, anyhow. Personally, I would much rather see people typing all in lower case with frequent typos and mispellings than see them type all in caps. It's hard on the eyes, even if you don't think of it as yelling. However, many people know that typing in caps means yelling and persist in their rude behaviour.

Even worse than the infernal CAPS LOCK affliction so many people suffer from, is what I call ASLS - the Age/Sex/Location Syndrome. Do you honestly go up to perfect strangers and demand to know their precise age, where they live, and their current relationship status? Of course not. Well, I hope you don't. That's terribly rude behaviour in real life. Similarly, I find it absolutely shocking to be hit with messages saying "hey, a/s/l check". Sadly, this Syndrome has been adopted as fairly regular behaviour. Most people don't react as irrationally as I do. I'd like to let people know that they don't ever have to answer any questions that make them uncomfortable.

Finally, one of the worst things anyone has to put up with is what I affectionately like to call a "weirdo. Generally rude, they ask about personal information as if it's their God given right to know everything about you. Not only that, most of the time, they don't do well with authority figures. I've, literally, lost track of the times I've been told to "shut up" or "f*** off" by chatters. They have no manners and seem to treat people like they don't have feelings, like they're not other real people.

This is my plea to you, the chatters of the world... Please don't type in caps. Please don't demand the age/sex/location of people you hardly know. Please remember that you're talking to other people, just like yourself. Don't escalate situations -- agree to disagree if you can't stop fighting about something with someone else.

Follow my advice and pass this message on to others, and maybe chatting will be a better experience for all of us.

Julie

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