So we’re all constantly engaging in some form of chatting online – be it over a chat client on your pc or your cellphone. Often our contact lists or “friends” are people whom we haven’t met before but have so much in common with, it’s almost as though we know them for years! But how well do we REALLY know them? And are they in reality what they make out to be online? Here’s a few ways to make sure you don’t get caught in the trap so many victims have fallen prey to. [No, I don’t plan on lecturing you, I myself have made many friends from cyberspace that, thankfully, turned out pretty awesome].
I call this The Obvious One: Simply be careful of whom you trust online! It’s never an ideal decision to share personal information with people. While describing your fabulous hazel eyes and pin straight hair might be acceptable, the name of your school; the gym you frequent; and the block of apartments you live in is obviously not. Personal features are something that’s overly common, the chances of finding another person with similar features as you are quite high. But finding someone with similar features as you, at the same school as you, and living in your building, isn’t.
Don’t be naive. Just because you have been chatting to him / her for almost a year now, doesn’t mean that you “know” them well enough to meet offline: especially alone. While there are very few people who have managed this and were able to maintain friendships that are still lasting, most people are not as lucky. Don’t go alone to meet someone from a chat room. Yes, you’re an adult, but no, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from harm’s way.
Are they forcing you to send pictures of yourself? Call and SMS you every day? Pushing for a meet? Cannot take “no” for an answer? Yep, you’ve landed yourself the psycho one. One of the best ways to get rid of this pest, is to sever all ties with them. Even if it means changing the chat rooms you frequent, changing your alias, even changing your cell number. These people just don’t stop. But they’re forced to once they cannot get a hold of you (assuming you’ve been true to the points above).
This is, personally, one which I have practiced the most: Make sure to tell someone in your life about the people whom you chat to online. In this way, if the person wants to find out more about you, stalk you, or want to get close to you by sharing the same friends, your inner circle are aware of this. And will keep a look out for you.
These are just points I’ve got from the top of my head, since I have been chatting online for almost a decade now. I see so many people sorely disappointed from a friendship online gone horribly wrong just as they were to meet, have met, or have started a relationship with. While some things are simply unavoidable, for the things that you can avoid – take control. And do so bravely. Confidence and fearlessness can be easily detected over chat. My intention is not to portray chatting online as something that’s bad, but rather something that you should be smart about. Like everything else in life, there’s a good and a bad side, the outcome depends on how well you’ve dealt with it.
*Image compliments of Google Images.