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.