Secrets, Lies & Chat

Monday, June 14, 2004

Chat Rooms in Australia - A Personal Viewpoint

Chatrooms In Australia
A Personal Viewpoint

I stumbled upon chat in late June 1999, and at that time I had never heard of chat rooms, although my son did irregularly speak to someone from overseas. I didn’t have any interest in the Internet when my son lived at home so I didn't have a clue about where he was chatting, or how he got there.

By the time I bought a computer in 1999 I had been living alone for six months and as it was winter, long cold nights, I thought about getting back to my writing. My son, after installing the computer and getting everything up and running for me, decided I should learn to surf the net. I refused at first but gave in because he insisted computers would be taking over and I had better upskill or I would be left behind. He went back to his home and left me with my new toy and basic lessons on how to connect to the internet and find my home page; the rest was up to me to figure out.

I found a link to chat overseas and wandered in for a look. The language was strange and I sat in my study at home staring at the screen wondering what kind of place I had stumbled upon. I ventured online irregularly for a couple of months, never really fitting into that room as they all seemed to know each other and I wasn’t part of the group. They welcomed me always but I still felt out in the cold. Logging in became frustrating and often I couldn’t find the room and would give up and go back to watching television or doing some writing. Once I became a bit more adventurous about surfing the net I found another chat forum; Australian chat. I remember how long it took me to end up in a chat room; there were so many steps to take and the program was very slow to load. After a few aborted attempts I finally made it and so began my addiction to chat (although I didn’t know it then).

My surfing around landed me in a suitable age room and there were quite a few people online in that room. I sat there watching; a few people said hello the first night and my stay was short. Subsequent nights more people said hello and I began to be online more frequently and for longer periods. I still watched a fair amount of television as the Internet and chat weren’t very important to me then, they were just a new adventure and were helping teach me how to connect to the Internet and how to find the chat room and log in. The people in the public chat room were teaching me online some of the tricks of the chat program and others in private chats were teaching me about life.

The interaction of chat won me pretty quickly. The TV set became secondary of a night, with the exception of the few class shows I liked to watch each week. I had found a way to have a social life without having to meet anyone and without having to get dressed up to impress and best of all, it only cost me a phone call!

My first night in the 50s room led me into a private chat session with a male who asked me if I had heard of ‘cybering’. Well of course I hadn’t. So being inquisitive and feeling a bit brave, I allowed him to show me in written words what it actually was. I was astounded; the things he typed blew my mind. I read words I would have fainted over if I had heard them actually spoken, and I wasn’t too happy seeing them in fantasyland either.

That seems so long ago now. After spending almost 5 years involved in the chat scene, there isn’t anything about chat that shocks me anymore. It’s like any other group of people; there are the cliques, the ‘in’ rooms, the ‘in’ people, the whingers, the ill, the poor and downtrodden, those unable to overcome the bitterness of life’s disappointments, the back stabbers, the sleazes, the abusers, the harrassers and the stalkers.

Then there are the basic nice people who just want somewhere to spend some time, have a chat, laugh, and play some music to alleviate their loneliness. All in a safe venue, where they can remain anonymous. No one can see what they look like, how they speak, their surroundings, their clothing. Everyone is on a level playing field. But are they?

When I first began to chat it appeared it was only possible to have a chat room if you applied to the owner of the server for a room and if the name you selected was approved. Most of the rooms were ‘owned’ by the server (big brother I call it) and people, who again were approved, became hosts of the rooms. The job of the hosts was to monitor the room they were in and if anything unforseen happened that required ejection of chatter from the room, the host had the power by using a few keystrokes, to do that. In those days there seemed to be very few people on ‘akick’ or on a ‘ban’ as the groups were always lively and happy. The few who did cause trouble were warned a number of times before being ejected.

That was how chat appeared to me in the early days of my addiction. I learned a little about how things ran as time went on and I also learned about chat ‘scripts’ that were far more advanced and more fun than the java script that a person automatically picks up on selecting chat from the server’s home page. And I also learned about this social group I had ended up with. It didn’t take long to work out the ‘groupies’ who were always meeting for lunches/dinners/parties etc., and I used to wonder why, if they saw each other so often socially, they needed to be online chatting in a chat room as well. There were also the couples that were in chat, sitting side by side at home on two computers, or sharing one. That I couldn’t fathom at all. It seemed there must have been a lot missing in their relationships that they had to sit in chat and talk to each other on computers that were in the same room!

The anonymity of chat of course brings a lot of people online that many of us would never meet in our ‘real’ lives. Married people can join chat and pretend to be single and pursue others and lie about their marital status; males can pretend to be females and vice versa; middle aged people can pretend to be a lot younger, young people can hang around in age rooms, lesbians and gays can wander freely around the rooms, pedophiles have found a new place to practice their sickness, pornography can be advertised just by privving people in a room and pasting a web address, males and females can harrass others and stalk them – both online and offline. And the list goes on.

My reputation online is a mixed one. I have a voice, as a writer, and I’m passionate and I don’t suffer fools gladly. Also as a Scorpio I read people fairly quickly, even without seeing them, just by watching their chat and the way they interact in a room for a short time. I have spoken out many times on many issues and I have stuck up for my friends in chat who I believe were being harrassed or targeted, and in so doing I’ve earned myself a reputation amongst certain hosts of certain rooms of being a troublemaker who must be silenced. I also speak out about married men in chat who continually chase other women in chat and act like it’s their right to do so. I would like a dollar for every priv I have had over the years from married men who then abuse me because I told them to go home and #$## their wives and leave me alone. Anyone who reads my book will see this as probably being a bit strange from someone who had affairs with married men. All I will say about that is I learned my lessons well and I see how dangerous chat can be, and is.

Last year I noticed I was becoming a bit of a target and it all came about after I spread the word around that I would be a published Australian author sometime during 2004. Some people applauded me, were proud to know me. Others knocked me, trying in anyway possible to embarrass me, make me look like a fool in the rooms. However, I learned how to stand on my fingers quite some time ago and how to debate online and very few of them could ever beat me with words. So they then attempted to beat me with personal slangs. It was around this time I noticed the change in the hosts of those rooms as well. If anyone else had been getting a ‘bashing’ like I was, the chat would have been halted with warnings. But it was allowed go on; very rarely anything was said. I refuse to be drawn into personal slanging. I only know those people online so I fail to see how I could become personal. It appeared I had moved way outside the ‘clique’ or the ‘accepted’ in the rooms and I could see by various things that were happening that the crowd was becoming restless.

Most of my time online last year was spent with a friend who was dying with a brain tumour, so all of what else that was going on hardly phased me in my concern for his well being. He did, on one occasion, as he said he had nothing to lose, go into a room where I had been harrassed earlier and tell them where to go (in a good Aussie way of course). He was banned from the room but came back to our priv laughing at the good time he had had telling them off on my behalf. He is one of my treasured memories of chat, and there were others before him too, but he was special, very special. Most of the people who frequent chat rooms would never meet anyone like that because they never stop to listen to anything but the sound of their own keys as they tap away their junk words every day of their lives. I could sit in a chat room and write a script most nights for everyone in that room as I know their chat styles so well. Was it always like that and I was blissfully unaware in pursuing my other interests, or have I lost my addiction to chat and see little point in it now?

About three months ago I found out when I went to enter the room I usually chat in, that I was banned from chatting there. No one ever advised me why I was banned and it was a huge surprise to click on the room and be instantly kicked back out. I recall seeing some words on the tag as I was booted out along the lines of ‘harrassing of hosts’. I guess that it all related to a few issues I had with some of the hosts in that room about the unfair way I saw they were treating a couple of other people chatting in the room. I spoke out, was told to mind my own business or get out. I bit my tongue and backed off but apparently a couple of the hosts in the room saw it as a chance to put me on a ban. I was also warned some time prior by one of the room 'owners' that I was scaring away 'newbies' from the room and it was going to stop. I hope the room's 'owners' are happy with the so-called 'newbies' as I haven't heard many good comments come out of that room as of late. Perhaps a Scorpio would be a good 'owner' as we can smell a rat from a mile off.

I found out by fluke a couple of weeks ago that if I went into the room using another nick I could get in as only my usual nick was banned, so I’ve been in a few times just to observe and say hello to a few friends in priv who I trusted not to let on I was in the room. That came to a big halt on Sunday night. One of the hosts who was not hosting at the time I was in the room, happens to also be a long-time chat friend and out of chat friend. I privved her and told her who I was and a few minutes later one of the ‘cops’ came into the room, opped himself and kicked me out. He then privved me and laid the law down telling me I had been told I was banned from the room. I told him I had never received a memo telling me I was banned. He told me the two ‘owners’ of the room had said I had been sent a memo and to take it up with them.

I asked him a few questions about room ownership (which means anyone can now ‘own’ a room just by simply registering a name online with a password) and how come he could come into rooms that the server didn’t ‘own’ and kick people out. He said he had just been passing by, saw my addy was in the room and kicked me out, as he has an agreement with the two ‘owners’ of that room to do. I knew that was a lie; unless he had a reason to check my details he would never have known I was in the room and he also rarely goes to any room unless its to kick someone out or read the riot act. I then sent my ‘friend’ a secret message, which she ignored, asking her did she dob me in. I waited a while and then sent her a memo and asked the same question. She replied telling me she hadn’t and that she had just spoken to the ‘cop’ and asked him how come he knew I was in the room. Same story, “just passing by”. Some ten minutes later my ‘friend’ arrived in my room and owned up that she had dobbed me in; that she felt as a host of the room it was her duty to do so even though she hadn’t opped in the room. I reminded her that we were personal friends, that I freely admitted to her that I was in the room, she didn’t find out for herself and as far as I was concerned she had broken a confidence, and ended a friendship as I would never trust her again. She apologised but still stood by her decision. You eventually find out who your real friends are if you wait long enough. As for the ‘cop’ lying about how he found out I was in the room – I leave that up to the individual who reads this to come up with a ruling. My ruling is he is no better than those he tries to push into big brother’s line and he is another example of a power monger. He proved it by lying bare faced (but anonymously of course) when asked a straight question. Guess he isn’t used to people having the nerve to question him or his motives.

So that is just an example of the world of chat. Fantasyland yes, but to some people, like my ‘friend’ who doesn’t even get paid for the work she does, it becomes a lifestyle. I give her benefit of the doubt that she was afraid someone else may have twigged I was in the room and she would be hauled over the coals because she didn’t realise it was me. The majority of hosts gain power in a chat room society they never have in their own lives. They can bully where they perhaps may be bullied. They can control where probably in their own lives they may be controlled. A lot of them don’t go to work so chat is their work, their life. They can embarrass people; they can rule the chat in the room and direct it to wherever they want it to go. I often see that if a host isn’t involved in the chat he/she will suddenly object to the chat, saying someone has complained, but never saying whom. I often believe there are no complaints; the host has his/her nose out of joint because for whatever reason he/she can’t get into the chat and so they want it ended.

Since my ban from the room I spent most of my time in online, I have also been told that I can no longer discuss my book in public chat as it contravenes one of big brother’s rules. This came about after I had been stalked by someone online and a friend made a complaint to the ‘cops’ for me. Problem was the perpetrator got to the ‘cops’ first and I was blamed for stalking him! Serves me right for trying to get him off my rear by suggesting I may have to resort to reporting him for stalking. I was warned I would be kicked from the server that night; placed on a permanent ban - for no wrongdoing. The next night I was privved and told the news about not being allowed talk about the book in public chat anymore. I may make some money out of it one day and that is a no no as far as free advertising in their eyes goes. So much for freedom of speech. I can go into overseas chat and speak freely about my book and answer all the questions I’m asked without fear of retribution. The strange thing is, until my ban from the room I could speak freely about the book and even the hosts in the room asked how things were going quite frequently.

My book seems to be the issue regarding my problems in chat. Jealousy reigns supreme in there about things like being able to do something many others would like to but don’t have the gift to do. It also reigns supreme regarding online relationships. I learned a long time ago never to let anyone know who I was talking to in chat or who I might be seeing in reality as there were people in the room who would set out to undermine the relationship. It happens with alarming regularity and is insidious because you can’t see what anyone is doing in there. Each person who has a script can be talking to any number of people in private at the one time and can be in up to five chat rooms as well. And then there are secret messages no one else in the room can see, and memos and emails that can all be sent out while you are in the chat room and no one is the wiser.

This is the world of Internet chat. It’s a world I hold grave fears for with regard to children and teenagers who will be exposed to all that I have been, and because of their ages and the corruption online now, they will be exposed to even worse things. Age holds no barriers in chat; we can all be whomever we choose to be and who can prove we aren’t who we say we are? It is so easy to be caught out by manipulators of minds and this is a true concern with younger people, who may tell someone with total innocence which school they go to, the suburb they live in, even their telephone number. People scorn such statements but I know it’s true, I’ve seen enough for myself, I’ve spoken to enough reliable people online to know it’s happening, and I’ve visited enough cyber websites to know it’s happening all over the world.

I have read with interest about the money various countries are setting aside to fight cyber criminal activities and I was pleased to read that there was already a presence in chat of law enforcement officers who are there to weed out the low lifes who carry out their filth online. The laws now being set up, or those that have already been set up to combat harrassment online and cyber stalking, make me feel optimistic. If all of us who do care, who do know what is actually happening on the Internet, in other places as well as chat spoke up, then we could make a difference. We could send these low lifes back underground, or out in the open where they can be caught and locked away; people power can exist if we can become brave again and learn to object and yell loudly as a group, or alone, “I/we will not be treated as children nor bullied nor harrassed nor discriminated against on the Internet or anywhere else” regardless of how harsh and hurtful others will be towards us.

I will never back down from my beliefs and I will always hope that chat may become again what it once was. Almost all the people I knew online between the years of 1999 and 2001 have disappeared from the server I use. They have either given up chat through frustration or anger, or they have found other forums to chat in. When I visit other forums I find thousands of people chatting away, having a great party every night together. And I return to my server and count the number of people online at night of a weekend. The maximum in any room would be approximately 50 and there would be less than 10 rooms that have more than a handful of people in them. That is sad to see and the numbers keep dwindling. I find Australians chatting using many other servers and while that’s good to do to keep out there amongst the world, a bit of Aussie patriotism would go a long way too. But then, the rot starts at the top, and big brother is accountable.

It would be great to see one of the opposition Aussie servers come online with a chat room set-up, where there is freedom of speech, where having a business or having a skill is applauded and can be shared regardless of whether you are going to make money out of it or not. Where there are no heavy-handed, dull-minded people hosting rooms.

I might add I have never advertised for my book’s sale as it is still a manuscript floating around in the USA and there is nowhere to buy it. All I ever did was share and answer questions. I wonder how I would fare suing big brother for discrimination and no freedom of speech? But then I would never win because I have the freedom to go and chat somewhere else, as I was told to on Sunday night by the ‘cop’. ‘If you don’t like the rules then you are free to chat elsewhere’.

And so say all of us.

I point out that the views expressed above are mine in total. Anyone who reads my book, ‘Secrets, Lies & Chat’ when it is released, will see some of the comments above within that story.


  • At Tuesday, June 15, 2004, Blogger Bryan Forsdike said…

    As usual I cannot resist making a passing comment, but you covered a lot of aspects of chat, mostly on the negative side of the concept. Chat, and this is my own opinion, is a world within a world, and as in any world if you are not careful has it,s darkside and many pitfals, but as you say, it can become addictive and a way of life for many people, and these parts of it can be soon forgotten as you get sucked in to the maelstrom, which is chat, and has a large influence on peoples lives.
    My experience in chat was a negative one, as you say if your face dosn,t fit, or mix with the right clique,s you are on the outside looking in, and soon discovered that it was not for the like,s of me, i am an honest straightforward person, and found that very few people on there were the as me, in fact, exactly the opposite.I met one, possibly two people that I thought were the same as me, and they too are disillusioned with the concept now, in my opinion there is one thing lacking from chat, the thing that humans have used since time immemorial to tell if another person is telling the truth, and that is eye contact, the eyes are a window to the soul, and can give away secrets that the mind is trying to hide.Hey look into a politicians shifty eyes next time you see one on t.v.
    My final comment is to go in, have a look around, have some fun, maybe meet a friend or two if you are very lucky, and get out, as it is too much like the real world, full of mistrust, spite and malice and is not an escape from the real world at all, it is just another world within this sad world.


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