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Chatrooms, in particular, combine the closeness and directness of the personal letter with the interactivity of the phone conversation, so sidestepping the contemporary obsession with personal appearance and liberating us from the constraints that this imposes.Such conversations in the dark allow us to be reaffirmed in the images we have of ourselves rather than being constrained by our consciousness of all the shortcomings that others might see in us.
In the last few years there has been a growing public concern about the dangers of socialising with strangers in chatrooms, but what do the users themselves think about the risks involved, and what strategies have they adopted to manage these risks?
For many of us the Internet has become an indispensable part of everyday life.
It frequently provides our first point of access to information.
It is not unknown for girls and boys, and even researchers to take on new selves.
Sherry Turkle tells of her shock and surprise at entering a chatroom anonymously and encountering another Professor Turkle who was there doing research.
Many of the young people we spoke to said that they found this continual uncertainty exhilarating and very different from most of their daytoday interactions with others (in ‘meat space’), in which role, status and rules constrain interaction within routine and highly predictable forms.
Chatrooms provide more than a stage for trying on new selves; the setting itself can become hyperreal, as all those who participate in it interact in the knowledge that ‘noone is quite who they say they are’.Webcams vary from rather static landscape views (our university has one which is pointed at the sky for weather enthusiasts) to sites apparently managed by young girls who adopt provocative poses and post lists of presents they would like to receive.The trend seems to be increasingly for such sites to become participative and interactive, Anyone can keep a Weblog—and anyone can read it and respond.The fact that in chatroom interactions nothing can be taken for granted, when taken to an extreme, creates a Wonderland that can be compelling.Involvement in it can become the most ‘real’ world in which you act, as Sherry Turtle puts it, quoting one of her informants, ‘RL’ (‘Real Life’). Currently the sites where these experiments with the presentation of self are most common are in textbased chatrooms, but chatrooms are themselves changing, being linked to ‘reality TV’, becoming hybridised with SMS (text messaging) and extending into other forms.Here, using a small set of these interviews, which were made with students in a tutorial centre in Athens , we will describe how some young people use the Internet to make relationships with others, and particularly how young women and men use the net to meet and talk to one another.