Are you taking online chatting too seriously?

While meeting new people and even flirting online is fun and harmless, it's important not to go overboard in the virtual world

When Medha Kumar (name changed) started chatting with one 'Harry 68' from the United Kingdom, apparently, whom she met on a popular chatroom some years ago, she had no idea about who he really was, as opposed to who he claimed to be. The pictures he sent her of himself were of a suave-looking attractive man. Medha, an impressionable 23-year-old, was smitten by Harry.

"I had just emerged from an abusive relationship and, looking back, I guess I was ready to fall for anyone at that time. I withdrew from contact with my friends and the real world and turned to chatting on the internet instead. After almost a year, I got serious with this guy. It was later I found out that he was not what he claimed to be. I actually visited England to meet him. When I realized that he was someone with a shady past who had been taken to court in the past for running an illegal business, I backed off and vowed never to go the online route again," recalls Medha, whose parents are looking for a partner a real-life one for her.

But it's not only in one-to-one internet chatting sessions that people get burned. Ashish Verma is the moderator of his school internet bulletin board. He recalls how the group chat sessions between members would turn into arguments over petty issues. "I had started a message board for alumni of my school. For the first few weeks came messages aplenty. But then, people started bickering over off-topic discussions and soon, old animosities and grudges from school days started playing out. After a while, there was so much negative vibes flying around, that messages slowed to a trickle and soon stopped altogether. It's now dead for all practical purposes," says Ashish who still tries to rekindle interest in the message board.

Emotions do run high when chatting online, due to the very nature of internet chatting itself. It's just you and your computer and it's pretty easy to shut out the real world.

Vishal Daswani, the moderator of another web board says that nothing kills an online discussion as much as flying tempers. He adds, "People tend to get too involved in the internet and misuse it. They might have had a bad day or whatever, but they end up taking out their frustrations online from behind the safety barrier of the internet."

It's important to remember, no matter how involved you get in a chat and however many hours you spend in front of the PC, that there's a difference between the real and the virtual.

There are also people online who prey on single and lonely people and get them to reveal their credit card information or worse still, persuade them to send pictures of themselves.

The World Wide Web is a vast place, and you never know where these might land up.

So as the old adage goes, unless it's face-to-face, take it with a pinch of salt.

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