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KEVIN RIDOLFI, a graphic designer and HTML programmer from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is the creator and editor of Renaissance Online Magazine. more



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Why chat rooms signal the downfall of society


The year is 2018 -- or as time is now recorded, 26 AC, approximately 26 years "After Chat." The president of the United States of Microsoft, a practically translucent man with thick "glare sighted" glasses and carpal mouse crippling of the right hand, sits alone in the oval office with his cabinet glowing and blinking onscreen in front of him.

The president must form a strategy to combat vicious terrorist groups who are rumored to be in the possession of UNIX technology. "It's only a matter of time before they complete the remaining steps and fully enter the information age," he types, clicking forcefully -- dramatically -- on his right mouse button.

The cabinet recommends a survey of the chat rooms -- "the only true democracy" -- for a consensus opinion:

SITSINDARK: age/sex/home?


PREZMAN: 40/m/White House

HISTORYMAJOR: 29/f/group home

PREZMAN: IMHO ("in my humble opinion") the terrorists should be contained

STUCKTOMOUSE: I hav (sic) a game terrorist1998 3d graphics are the bomb

PREZMAN: what?

SITSINDARK: any girls in here?


At the very best, the world will gently roll to a passive, peaceful finale, not some debilitating, fiery nuclear armageddon. The world's collective mind will simply fade quietly into a ball of grey oatmeal and the chat rooms will sit empty at last. At the ultimate worst our planet will transform into PLANET-TALK, where nobody knows your name.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for free speech and the ideals of an open forum of communication. I truly support the theory of the chat room, which is a gathering where people of all ages, races, education and sexes can come together to discuss events and puzzle over the complexities of daily life. 12-year-olds discussing whose's cuter the Hanson brothers or the Backstreet Boys certainly falls short of these grand designs. As a matter of fact, teens and lonely adults pretending to be something they're not falls short of just about anything meaningful at all.

I've heard stories of people meeting in the Flirts Nook chat room and forming a life-long bond of unconditional love. Many years ago people heard tales of little gnomes spinning gold from hair.

I've overheard mall-talk about how JennyT met this hottie named MCDoug in AOL's "Get off your ass and do something" chat room. For centuries people have built a little shadow in a lake into a fantastic creature of the Loch Ness.

In technical terms, people are full of manure. We believe urban myths without question. Our best-selling periodical is the National Enquiror, full of blatant lies, and our favorite talk show is Jerry Springer, full of blatant idiots. Why shouldn't we believe the "The Amazing, Fix-all Chat Room Miracle"?

More often than not -- according to my stat service, Make Em Up Inc. -- 99.9% of these cyber-hookups are nothing more than talk that used to get your mouth washed out and tied up phone lines. At least when parents used to complain about their kids spending all night on the phone, it was with someone little Haley had actually met (face-to-face, not cursor-to-cursor).

I have searched long and hard for some positive and useful purpose for a chat room and here it is: it allows inherently lazy people to keep from having to hold a phone up to the side of their head or, heaven forbid, actually having to walk outside and experience the world in millions of colors rather than in a spectacular 216 color RGB experience.

I hear of people spending immeasurable amounts of time online "chatting" and I think two very clear things:

1) People don't do anything anymore (except pick Dorito pieces out of their keyboards and drink that arythmia-causing SURGE).

2) Even though I grew up in the eighties, I'm starting to sound like an old fogey reminiscing about a yellowed "better" time when kids played in the park and parents painted their picket fences white.

I didn't have to spend much time finding holes in the chat experience. The one time I went into a chat room -- my first day on AOL -- someone told me I was old. Of course I was only 22 and the person who lent me this particular pearl of wisdom, VIRTUALGIRL, could have been a 57-year-old man with a lot of questions of his own. I didn't stick around to find out.

Here's my own pearl of wisdom: people are fake enough in person. I don't like to give them any opportunity to hide, especially behind something that resembles a mini television. Otherwise I'm just going to assume that they're acting and what they say is nothing but a poorly written script. Hopefully in 2018, PREZMAN reaches the same conclusion.

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