Chatting With Strangers Online Vs. Chatting With Friends Online

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

The internet has given many individuals and communities a greater ability to communicate with family and friends from anywhere in the world. Whether you're communicating through video games, social networking, chat rooms, or other forms of random chat online, the internet allows individuals to form new bonds or strengthen existing ones. While there may not seem to be differences between chatting with a stranger or a friend, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. 

Meeting random strangers can have a few risks associated with it, whereas you may be able to strengthen your bond with existing friends online with few risks. While chatting with strangers might not have the same effect as chatting with friends, both options can be beneficial. For those looking to connect, any online chat can be valuable if safe, consensual, and honest. Understanding the drawbacks and benefits of each chat type can help you stay safe online.

Weak social connections can make you feel exhausted

Chatting with strangers online

There are a few areas to consider before deciding to meet individuals online through a chat platform, dating app, or social media site, including the following. 

The risks of chatting with strangers 

When first meeting strangers online, giving out identifying or personal details quickly can be risky, as some people on online chats may not be who they claim to be. If you're worried about giving your identity, you may be able to find an online chat where you can stay unidentified. 

In addition, when you meet someone new, note that facial filters, AI, and stolen images can be used to falsify someone's identity or appearance. People can hide behind false names, photos, or features to try to take advantage of others, which can be potentially dangerous. To reduce this risk, if you're looking for a long-term friendship with a stranger online, ask if you can have a video call to ensure safety. 

Although it can be comforting to assume that those you are communicating with have the same intentions and desires as you, it may not be the case in every scenario. Bullying, scamming, and fraud can occur online, so practice internet safety in any online chat, even if it's through a popular website or free online chat platform. Finally, trust your intuition if a situation feels unsafe, wrong, or worrisome. Many people who partake in scams online use validation, emotional support, love, money, and other values to harm people. 

If you are a minor (under 18), do not talk to strangers online without parental supervision, even if they state they are your age. In addition, do not meet someone you met alone without parental approval and an accompanying caregiver or parent. If you are a parent, the US Department of Justice has released videos and educational materials to review with your children to help ensure their safety on the internet.  

Reasons to chat with strangers online  

Studies have found that social interaction is essential for mental and physical health. However, many people struggle to find in-person connections and may seek interaction online. Making friends online can also be beneficial, as it allows you to meet more people with similar interests who may not live in your area. For example, you can look specifically for female strangers online who are interested in video games. If you live in a rural location, free chat sites online can help you make a community and find cities you might want to move to. 

For many people, meeting strangers online may feel safer, less judgmental, or more comfortable due to its discreet and long-distance nature. When you meet someone in person, you may worry about your physical appearance and behavior or struggle to know what to say. An online chat can allow you to spend time thinking about what you say before you say it, which can be appealing when making new friends. 

Benefits of chatting with strangers 

For some people, connecting with strangers over a chat can help them feel more comfortable transitioning into in-person relationships. When you can speak to a stranger who makes you feel heard and validated, it may give you hope that others in your everyday life can also be as supportive. 

Another benefit of forming friendships online is that your online friends may be more objective when you ask for advice. For example, if you have an argument with your partner and turn to a real-life friend who is close to your partner, their opinion might be biased. By talking to an online friend, you may be able to rant about your situation without receiving a biased response. Others may prefer to continue chatting with strangers. Being completely unidentified in a text chat or a chat website may allow someone to reach out and exchange experiences or resources with someone in a similar situation. 

How to find chats with strangers 

Many people find online chats with strangers by searching for them on a search engine. You can also meet strangers through social media sites like Facebook, where you can join groups of people with similar interests and send messages to those interested. Be extra vigilant when you meet strangers online if you are a woman. Especially if you are intending to chat with males who are looking for female strangers online. For your safety, try to stick to popular sites and profiles with many photos and years of posting history. Signs someone's profile may be fake include the following: 

  • Heavily edited and filtered photos
  • Only one or two photos on the profile
  • A recently created account
  • Photos that show up in Google searches under a different name 
  • Messages asking for money or help immediately upon speaking 
  • Refusal to video chat or speak over the phone after many conversations 
  • A friends list with random people from all over the world 
  • No posts on the profile 
  • No family or friend interactions on the profile 

If you are a minor, do not partake in an online chat with a stranger without asking your parent or guardian for permission first, and ask your caregiver to check that you are speaking to someone your age. It can be difficult to tell a person’s age, even using strangers video chat, and there are bad actors out there who may be looking to chat with strange girls or boys online. Your parents may also ask to monitor your conversations to ensure your safety, as many adults use the internet to harm children. 

Getty/Nitat Termmee

Chatting with friends online

Keeping a friendship active and healthy as an adult can be challenging. Priorities change, life can get busy, and time for relaxation can seem like a luxury. Due to this, talking to friends online can be a convenient option. Through an online chat with your friends, you can continue to keep in contact without leaving your home, children, job, or other responsibilities.  

Disadvantages of chatting with friends online 

While chatting with friends online can be appealing, it may not be ideal in the long term to replace a face-to-face conversation with an online relationship in every case. When you're online, it can be harder to read body language, and it can cause isolation or loneliness over time. The longer you go without face-to-face interaction, the more difficult it can be to find the motivation to spend time with friends over coffee or meet up for a movie. Social interaction may also feel more difficult as you transition back to face-to-face connections. 

Limited time may not allow weekly meetups with your friends, so it can be beneficial to keep up on your social skills by chatting with your friends over video calls or meeting up occasionally to catch up in person. 

Benefits of chatting with a friend online 

Many people report that they communicate better in written form, which makes online chatting with friends more appealing. If they have to interact verbally with others daily through a job, it can be challenging to meet up with a friend as well. At the end of the day, you might have a lot on your mind but don't have the energy to leave your home. In these cases, talking to your friend online on a random video chat can be a fun way to connect without much pressure. 

In addition, online chats with friends are often more intimate than stranger chats. Knowing you're talking to someone you trust and love can make conversations meaningful and important. You may be able to confide more in a friend than you can in someone you met on the internet, as trust can take time to build. 

Trust is often considered one of the most essential elements in a relationship, so if you take time to warm up to new people, you might want to "stay close to home" rather than seek connections from strangers. Since friendships can take a lot of time to form, consider keeping your bonds with your current friends strong instead of focusing your attention elsewhere.

Weak social connections can make you feel exhausted

Can you chat with a therapist online? 

Recent research shows that online therapy can help those with complex feelings arising from a lack of social connection. In a study published in Behavior Therapy—a peer-reviewed academic journal—researchers examined the effects of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on loneliness. Treatment consisted of an eight-week CBT program to measure feelings of isolation, depression, social anxiety, worry, and similar concerns. Post-treatment, participants reported a decrease in loneliness and an increase in overall quality of life.

These results are consistent with those of several similar studies on the effects of online CBT when treating a wide array of mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by helping individuals reframe negative thought processes underlying unwanted emotions or behaviors, such as those related to loneliness.

Online therapy is a valuable resource if you are seeking a connection or are looking to work through your emotions. In addition, through a platform like BetterHelp, you can choose to have chat therapy sessions, which are similar to chats with a stranger but with a licensed therapist trained to support you instead. You can also start chatting over the phone or on video calling if you prefer them to messaging. 

Counselor reviews

“I have been working with Christal since about April or May. She has become a friend, helpful in some of my most lonely times. I am thankful for the time I have had with her counseling.” 

“She listens to me and offers suggestions. I feel like she understands my situation dealing with loneliness and hurt.”

Takeaway

Chatting with strangers and chatting with friends can produce positive results in your levels of happiness and well-being, as social interaction is essential for human health. Random chatting or meeting new friends through various chat avenues can be done online. However, be sure that you're always practicing internet safety when using a chatting website or visiting stranger chat rooms.

You might also benefit from online chat therapy if you want to talk to someone about a challenge you're experiencing but don't want to chance it with strangers. Talking to a therapist is safe and discreet and can help you receive the social support you seek. 

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