Online chat rooms have been around since the early days of the internet, connecting people from all over the world in common cause. Remember Yahoo! chat rooms? An ancient relic of the past though they may be, these chat rooms helped set the foundation for future chat services and provided something that thousands of people enjoyed. Whether you’re joining a chat room for fun, for work, or to chat online with a support group, here are five essential guidelines for using online chat rooms.
1. Use Common Sense and Caution
While this first tip should be a no-brainer at this point, you’d be amazed at just how many people throw caution to the wind when they’re using the internet. Unfortunately, not everyone who uses the web is a savory character, and more than a few terrible things have occurred to users who didn’t exercise a certain level of caution when chatting with strangers.
When you’re interacting with strangers, never give out personal information like personal email addresses, full name, or phone numbers. It’s important to at least chat with the person more than once before you start sharing details about yourself. Make no mistake, there are predatory people out there looking for an easy target. Exercise caution and common sense and keep personal details to yourself!
2. Never Send Money to Private Email Addresses
One of the oldest scams in internet history is the “please send money to this email address and I’ll send you $10 million.” While it may seem ridiculous, many people have fallen for email scams, and they’re becoming more sophisticated as time goes on. Scammers have gotten much smarter about how they approach people online, and can often be incredibly clever.
The first rule of caution when it comes to financial scams is that you never send money to a private email address or bank. No official institution, legitimate business, or other viable enterprise will ever ask you to send money to a private email address. Countless people have fallen for the “Nigerian Prince” and other email scams simply because they didn’t exercise caution or investigate the person they were allegedly sending money to. A good rule of thumb is to never send anyone money online unless you’re paying for a product or service (or giving money to a family member/friend).
3. Remember the Purpose of the Chat Room
When you’re using a chat room, it’s important to remember whether you’re in a work chat or casual chat. You probably won’t be cursing up a storm in a work chat (or maybe you will be). Just remember where you are and why you’re there. Keep work chats clean and related to the topics at hand so you’re not wasting anyone’s time. If you’re in a casual chat room, it’s ok to let loose a little more, but again, exercise caution and common sense.
Abbreviations make for quicker typing and more efficient conversations in their own way, but too many abbreviations can make your language seem juvenile and obnoxious; especially in a professional setting. It’s ok to abbreviate now and then, but if you want someone to take you seriously, it’s best not to abbreviate every word in a sentence.
While abbreviations might be the staple in an ever-increasingly digitalized world, it’s still important to exercise language skills in certain settings. Is saving just a few seconds on what you’re typing truly worth coming off as unprofessional or juvenile? We’d like to think not. Keep abbreviations minimal, and use good grammar when in a professional environment.
5. Follow the Groups’ Specific Rules
As with any online group, chat rooms have their own group-specific rules. Whether you’re in a work chat room, casual chat room, or community chat room, follow the rules carefully, or you could be removed/banned from the server. Each group’s rules should be clearly posted or linked in the chat room/group description for easy access. If you find that you have trouble following the posted rules, it might be a good idea to find a new chat room.
Rules are usually set in place to prevent online harassment or bullying. Very seldom will you find chat room rules that aren’t related to an offense someone has already committed, thus warranting the new rules. Be respectful and courteous of everyone in the chat room, and follow any other group-specific rules, and you should be fine.
The Bottom Line
Using online chat rooms requires a bit of caution and common sense. Don’t give information to strangers (or money), and always be courteous and remember what kind of chat room you’re in. Save slang and cursing for casual chat rooms, as they’re more likely to get you in trouble in a professional chat room.