Five Effective Ways To Talk To People Online

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Billions of people worldwide used social media in 2020, but many ways to talk to others online might not be apparent to everyone. In addition, some people may struggle more with technology than others. It can also be challenging to know how to remain safe online and find people with genuine intentions when looking to make online friendships. However, there are a few tips you can keep in mind when using online communication to stay safe and enjoy your time on the internet. 

Struggling to find ways to connect with others?

Five tips for talking to others online 

Below are five ways to chat with others online safely if you intend to make friends or connections. 

1. Follow internet etiquette and safety tips (netiquette)

You may have heard of social etiquette before, but what about netiquette? Etiquette in technology is often referred to as netiquette and involves a few standard rules: 

  • Try not to write in all capital letters, as it may convey shouting.

  • Enter spaces you'd like to participate in and relate to, such as a niche group. 

  • Before you write a message, try to read it back to yourself to mimic how a stranger might read it. 

  • Video chat with someone before meeting up with them to ensure they're the person they say they are. 

  • Don't send money online unless you know someone offline and trust them. 

  • Don't enter your credit card information on random sites or forums that aren't commonly used. 

  • Don't download a file someone sent you unless you trust the person and know them personally or can confirm that it is a safe file type. 

  • Be kind to others, and don't say something you wouldn't say to someone offline. 

  • Don't post images you don't want everyone to see, as internet images can often appear in searches on various sites and search engines and be stolen by others. 

2. Choose the right platform

If you're new to talking to strangers online, you may not be familiar with social media or chat rooms and forums. There are slight differences between these options regarding how you communicate with others. 

A chat room is a virtual "room" where people "talk" in real-time, conducting live back-and-forth conversations. Conversely, a forum is a place to leave a message for someone to answer hours, days, or weeks later. Forums have threads of messages, comments, and discussion topics, whereas chats may not save the information and are often for short-term and brief conversations.  

Depending on your desired experience, seek a space that meets your needs and feels right. For example, if you're uncomfortable talking to multiple people at once or navigating more complicated web platforms like forums, sticking to messaging friends on a social media platform like Facebook might be ideal.
Ilona Titova/EyeEm

3. Find common interests

One way to meet and talk to people online is by letting the source of your connection guide your conversation. If you join an online group for painters, for example, you might use the subject of painting and your feelings about your art to jumpstart a connection with someone new. 

Seeking out communities and groups that interest you helps you skip some of the potentially complex work of deciding what to talk about and to whom. Additionally, finding others you bond with may challenge your assumptions about your ability to talk to others and boost your confidence about chatting with people online. 

4. Be kind to yourself

You might notice yourself being critical of yourself or assuming that others might not want to talk to you. However, these thoughts can be examples of cognitive distortions that might be influenced by anxiety or social fears. Try to be kind to yourself as you navigate online spaces if you're not used to it. Learning how to send messages, multimedia links, use notifications, and other technology areas can be overwhelming. With practice, you might find that these tasks become second nature. 

5. Consider the intentions of others

If you're speaking to someone online you've never met, consider their intentions. Some people use the internet to find vulnerable people who don't know how to use it so they can take advantage of them. It might be a red flag if you get a message from someone who seems pushy, unkind, or overly interested in you. 

These occurrences are most common in people over 50. The US government has a website dedicated to resources to help older adults stay safe online and avoid financial fraud or hacking. Common red flags of someone with unkind intentions may include the following: 

  • Profile photos of a celebrity or stolen from someone else's profile (ask someone you trust to do a reverse image search if you're unsure) 

  • Constant messages and disrespect of boundaries

  • Constant requests for money or favors

  • Asking you to buy them a gift card from a local store 

  • Asking you to send them money that they will "pay back" 

  • A deal on an apartment, car, or service that seems "too good to be true" 

  • Asking you to send them your bank account number 

  • Pressuring you to meet them in person when you don't want to  

  • Refusing to video chat, talk on the phone, or send you photos of themselves before you meet 

  • They ask you to pay before you receive a product or service 

  • Refusing to allow you to test a product or service before buying it 

  • Threatening you or swearing at you if you don't go through with their demands

  • Telling you that you won the lottery or a significant amount of money and need to complete a task to receive it 

  • Calling or emailing you pretending to be your relative or someone in danger asking for money

  • Calling or emailing you pretending to be the IRS or a US government official asking for money 

Other solutions available to those who struggle with online communication 

Consider support groups or confidence-building exercises if you're looking for ways to improve your communication with others. These can help you to work on the skills to better interact with others. Support groups may also be available for people who have difficulty communicating and can provide tips and ideas about connecting and expressing yourself. 

Other potentially valuable places to learn about and practice confidence-building exercises are self-help books or online courses. These options may not require you to meet with others face-to-face, which could allow you more time to focus on learning about yourself. The more you understand yourself, the more you may be able to try new skills. 

Talking with your current friends can be another helpful option, as you can better understand how you interact with people before trying to make new friends. Start by examining how you currently interact with those in your life. Talking to people online may not be much different, but you may type what you want to say instead of saying it out loud. 

Struggling to find ways to connect with others?

Can you talk to a therapist online? 

New research finds that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for treating mental health conditions. In addition, one study found that online chat therapy could be as effective as other forms of online therapy, like video or phone calls. Even if you're not living with symptoms of a mental illness like anxiety or depression, online therapy may give you the tools to feel empowered and confident when talking to others. 

Many people prefer using online platforms like BetterHelp to talk to a therapist because they are discreet, can be used from home, and offer unique benefits like webinars or journaling features. If you're not used to using the internet to chat with others, you might try online counseling first to learn from an expert who is safe to talk to. 


If you're not used to it, talking to people online can be difficult. However, learning the internet rules and how to chat with others might not deviate from what you may have learned about in-person social rules. If you're struggling with socialization, mental health, or learning to use an online chat, you can also consider contacting an online therapist for guidance.
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