The Internet has spawned whole new ethical dilemmas regarding how we relate to one another. A typical example of this is the new chat room etiquette, which helps us determine how we should talk to people in a chat room setting. Unlike a private conversation with a single person via the Internet, the chat room means that many people will read our conversation. It’s rather like talking loudly in a crowded restaurant.
Each chat room has its own chat room etiquette, as do social gaming sites like Scrabble sites. Usually the chat room has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, which can help one become familiarized with the specific chat room etiquette for an individual site, or “room.”
Before logging on and chatting read the FAQ carefully to be certain one doesn’t violate the codes of the particular chat room one wishes to enter. As well, the first time one logs into a chat room, spend some time reading the chat of other people. This is likely to inform one of more on the chat room etiquette observed by the users of the room.
One of the goals of chat room etiquette is to keep conversations short and to the point. Longer comments and questions are usually better directed in emails. Chatters frequently use abbreviations to not take up too much space when they post a comment. Such lists of common abbreviations are available widely online.
Some writers on chat room etiquette suggest one enter a room, and state one’s name, sex, age, and perhaps home state (or country). There is abundant evidence to suggest this information should not be given, particularly for chatters under the age of 18. In fact, when entering a supposedly “safe” chat room, it is very important for younger children to be aware that there will be some presence of people who will try to exploit their youth, and gain information regarding them.
To preserve anonymity, chat room etiquette suggests choosing a handle or name, not one’s own. Choose something related to the chat perhaps. Avoid names that are obscene or disgusting. One will make no friends walking into a Christian chat with a name that refers to various anatomical parts.
Guests who wish to vent their hostility, or deliberately disturb a chat will visit some chat rooms. It is never within the bounds of chat room etiquette to behave in this way. Instead of paying attention to those behaving poorly, the best bet is to ignore such statements. Consider them as pitiable deluded people talking to themselves on a crowded street and walk the other way quickly!
If a person continues to make harassing statements, most chat rooms will allow one to block the comments. If this option is unavailable in one’s particular room, emailing the chat administrator may help permanently remove an agitator from a chat.
Chat room etiquette requires one to keep conversations on topic, particularly if the room is themed. If one is in a chat room discussing Italian food, don’t introduce a query about a poodle. More loosely connected themes may allow for greater freedom in chatting. For example a single mom’s group might cover a number of subjects related to being a single mom. Again the FAQ helps one to know what subjects are best undertaken.
When one is ready to leave the chat room, chat room etiquette suggests that one say a general goodbye to the group, just as one might when leaving a party. Something along the lines of, “Gotta go to bed ‘night everyone!” is perfect.
One chat room etiquette clarification needs to be made. Using all capital letters used to be considered the Internet equivalent of shouting. This is no longer the case. Someone using caps may be disabled, or simply may be a newbie. Don’t berate newbies. After all, a capital letter or two is hardly what one would consider highly offensive, especially if the person’s language is otherwise clean and appropriate.