No Room for Idle Chat
Some of you reading this article may have recall the song that started with the words “where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed, tell me the thoughts that surround you, I want to look inside you head, yes I do”. I thought that this could be the perfect anthem for the culture of chat-rooms. I confess, I have never more than given a cursory look at chat rooms, because I am a face to face kind of person. I have however met people who virtually live in them, to coin a new pun. Listening to these people, it occurs to me that you can play out fantasy roles and explore your inner life in chat-room. A teenager who thinks that he may be gay tries out gay chat-rooms in order to further explore the idea. Of course he is given lots of encouragement and advice about how to come out and the wonderful world that awaits him when he does. The wife who finds her husband boring or detached can meet virtual husbands who will offer whatever she tells them that she lacks from her marriage. The chat-room becomes a place where you can literally open your inner world to what is at the same time so removed that you can pretend it’s not real and so immediate that it can feel more intimate than a real relationship. Hein lies the power and allure of the chat-room and also its danger. It can as part of the same paradox seem to be connecting you with others while at actually reinforcing the isolation of communicating through an electronic medium instead of face to face or even over the phone which has an immediacy of its own. I have seen many people become so obsessed with chat-room life that the chat through the night until the chat-room becomes through their investment a more alive and real part of the world than their day lives. I am not saying that the technology is a bad thing. Technology from the invention of the first iron instrument was used for both farming and murder. What is of interest to me is when this particular technology becomes more than a resource and starts to reshape a persons psychological world through their prioritising their virtual life overt their regular life. The danger lies in the fact that with the co-operation of fellow fantasizes, people construct for themselves a perfect world where all their frustrated needs and wishes can find expression and be offered fulfilment. The chat-room maybe an interesting medium through which to explore ones identity as long as you remember to reboot into everyday life.