I’ve always been more comfortable communicating from a keyboard than in-person. My first access to a computer (outside of a classroom) happened when I was 15 years old. Of course, the only internet we had was dial-up. For those old enough to remember dial-up, you know the agony of watching the screen re-load line by line. Holy hell, that was excruciating.
At the tender age of 15, I was a sexual being – and my first foray into the online world was a chatroom. I have no clue where it was or who it was, but I know that I flirted with ease, safe behind a computer screen and a keyboard. I flirted hard and fast, not worried about whether the person was who they said they were and (thankfully) smart enough not give to out personal information. It lasted for a few days, until my street-savvy father caught me. He knew something was up and he put a stop to it. At the ripe old age of 34, I now know he was right, but at the time, I was devastated. Well, until my friends invited me to do something better. In those days, I wasn’t tied to computers and technology like I am today.
My next adventure began as a freshman in college. One of the selling points of my alma mater was the fact that they gave every incoming freshman a new computer (nowadays it’s a laptop or a netbook, not sure which). It was repaired at no cost whenever needed and mine to keep upon graduation. Within weeks of freshman year, I was hooked on ICQ. I talked to men of all ages, fearless in my flirting. Keyboards are easier for introvert like me. I can weigh, measure, and edit my words. I can say what I’m really thinking without caring that I might hurt someone’s feelings or come across as strange or odd.
I met my ex-husband through ICQ in February of my freshman year. By then, I was already jaded by online chatting. People came and went, looking for a cheap thrill. Nothing lasted for more than a week, and I hated that part. I didn’t want to expend any energy on someone who wasn’t going to hang around.
“Hello.” I ignored the bland message.
“Hey there.” Same sender, still bland and boring.
“Are you just going to ignore me all night?” Finally, something almost interesting.
My response was snarky, intended to drive away the faint of heart. “If you don’t have anything more interesting to say than “hello” than yes, I’m going to ignore you.” (Ironically, this is where I taught my future husband that if he was persistent enough, I would always respond – a habit I’ve broken, but he continues even three years after our divorce – another story for another day.)
That first ICQ message changed the direction of my life. We were together for 12 years, married for 9, and I bore him two beautiful little boys who barely remember what he looks like now as he’s practically abandoned them. All because I was too young to realize that someone who could spend countless (and I mean countless) hours talking online to a teenage girl probably didn’t have much of a life or any real prospects (especially since he was 26 to my 19).
Fast forward many years later, and I still prefer to meet and talk with people online. While I use Facebook chat and Twitter replies or direct messaging, I’m not a big chatter anymore. I’ve used the comment section of this blog to meet people and if I want to talk more in-depth, email is always my first choice. (Case in point: I connected with Daddy through comments on our blogs. One day, on a whim, I used the contact feature of his website to thank him for making me laugh when things were really terrible. More than 18 months later, here we are.)
From the random Facebook messages I sometimes receive, I know the salacious offers from strangers didn’t die with the ICQ and chatroom days. It’s simply evolved with whatever is available to connect with people. I’m not offended by the random messages I get online (although I am usually quite creeped out by them). I view them with the same cynicism I developed at age 18 with ICQ. Whatever, dude. Whatever.
Welcome to Wicked Wednesday. This week’s theme was about online chatting and our thoughts or stories about it. Be shocked, I had an opinion.
Oh man do I ever remember dial up. Gosh that seems eons ago! I chatted on sites too. Those were the days. Definitely not good ol’, but not bad. Ps: my alma mater provided laptops when I went too. It definitely made going there easier.
My kids have no freaking clue how good they have it. The 8yo nearly cried the other day when our wifi slowed down (so did I).
Great post. I didn’t start chatting in chat rooms until my 40s. You are so right about how people come and go, as well as the energy expended. I belong to a couple of sites with forums. Usually I’m open to folks direct messaging me. If they seem interesting and have something to say, then we transition to email. Many people prefer Yahoo IM, but I like the less immediate approach. Email gives me a chance to think and to respond in the way I like. It’s more reflective.
Email is definitely more reflective. I edit myself a lot before I ever hit send.
You’re right about the amount of energy used for the people who come and go. It can be tiring.
Thanks for stopping by!
I’m glad to have stopped by. I just started following you recently, but have already become a fan. I very much enjoy your postings.
I remember ICQ, used it quite a bit actually…Hmmm wonder if you and I may have brushed by one another back in the day.
This post made me think of the America On Hold disks, I mean AOL. I would save them and make decorations out of them.
If I remembered any of the user names of people who talked to me, we could try to figure it out. 🙂
I remember a man in his 40s from Ohio quite distinctly, but that’s about all. I was such a chat whore! 😉
I remember ICQ too, and IRC, which shows how old I am. Never used it to flirt though, I was freelancing for iVillage, helping them set up a web based parenting community. Ahhhh the vanilla years 🙂
Wow, you helped them set that up?! I wouldn’t have made it through my first pregnancy without that community – ok, yes, I would, but the information there was invaluable to me.
I remember IRC as well, used to use a program called Nexgen to access it. At the time I used to think it hilarious to “slap someone with a trout”
Internet Relay Chat. And yes it was hysterical John Brownstone 🙂
Ah, dial up… ICQ… Yahoo chat… I remember those days!!
It feels like ages and ages ago, and it really wasn’t all that long. Strange how that works.
It was a great community. But even they could see that the future was web based, I helped them establish their chat rooms and build traffic on their web site. Then a bunch of us split off and established our own parenting web community. I wrote for them for about a year or so
It was bought out though but the logo and feel of the site is the same.
I don’t know if any of my articles are still there
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and identify closely with it. I had a similar experience with online chat rooms as a kid, though my parents never caught on to how I used it. I maintain friendships with some of my digital amorous relationships from that age, but sadly have never fucked a single one of them. Le sigh.
Le sigh, indeed. Those would be interesting posts to read, I have no doubt.
My parents didn’t catch me doing much, but that was one of them. Not sure if I should be thankful or annoyed. 🙂
I have chatted to so many and I so remember that: having to start all over again because people disappear after a week and new people come on. The online chatroom was fun, but it was so much better when I moved over to a select group on MSN and ICQ. They at least did not disappear.
I stopped chatting online for a long time because so many people vanished. It was too tiring to keep up.
I don’t miss chat at all but it did serve a wonderful purpose in my life at one point. I made amazing friendships there, many of which transferred into real life and many that I still keep in touch with even now
That is, and was, the power of chat and other online conversations – the ability to bring people together from all over that we never would have met otherwise.
This was a fascinating read. The only place I ever chatted was the chat room we had set up for the biblical research ministry I used to work for 14 years ago. I was one of the moderators for a while. No flirting, just heated theological debate between stodgy men. You had a whole lot more fun! I was a lurker for quite a while. You just never know who’s reading and who will decide to make themselves known. It could turn out to be one of your dearest friends. I never knew that could be possible.
I’ve lurked many times. It’s a fascinating way to people-watch.
I had fun, but it wasn’t real – not back then, at least. It makes you cynical after a while.
And you’re right – some of the most surprising relationships have come from the online world. 🙂
I used to love chatting, being anonymous gave me the bravery I would never have had in real life.
Exactly! That’s part of the reason I’m still semi-anonymous. 🙂