Is It Normal To Talk To Random People Online?
By Julia Thomas
Updated December 06, 2018
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Millions of people are online every day all over the world and many of them are talking to random strangers. This may be on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter or in chat rooms or Internet dating sites. Although the majority of those talking to strangers are just being friendly, some of them are actually addicted to the Internet, chatting, or cybersex.
What Is Internet Addiction?
Addiction is defined as the condition of being addicted to a certain activity or substance. For example, Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is excessive Internet use that interferes with your daily life. Of course, just talking to people online once in a while does not mean you are addicted. If it does not cause a problem in your everyday life, talking to people online is perfectly natural and can sometimes be therapeutic because for some people, talking to a stranger is easier than talking to family or friends.
Why Talk to Strangers?
When you have a problem or you are embarrassed about something, talking about it to people you do not know and cannot see may be more comfortable than talking to someone face to face. Also, you may feel freer to talk openly with people you do not know because they are not biased. In fact, it is actually recommended by some mental health professionals because talking to someone online about serious matters is much more comfortable for many people than talking to someone in person. With strangers, you do not have to worry about being judged or feeling ashamed because you are anonymous so nobody knows who you are. Just the fact that they cannot see you can make you more comfortable to talk about difficult subjects.
Can I Trust People Online?
A study of 320 individuals was done to determine if people were honest when chatting online. The researchers found that men were more likely than women to lie about their financial status and women usually just lied for safety reasons. It is best to stay anonymous with strangers online because you just do not know who is being honest and what kind of person you are chatting with unless you are on a reputable chat therapy website.
Chat Therapy Websites
There are many websites that offer counseling, therapy, and psychological counseling to help with mental health issues. Some of them are honest and professional but some are not. There are some ways to determine whether a website is legitimate online or not. For example, if the site is written with typos and bad grammar, you should be suspicious. It is best to use a reputable site that is well-known and has the letters https: before the URL because that means it is secured. BetterHelp.com has more than 2,000 licensed professionals that can help you at any time, day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You do not need to make an appointment. Just answer a few questions (you can remain anonymous) and talk to someone today. If you want to speak to someone in person, they may be able to help find a therapist near you that you can see.
What About Online Support Groups?
If you have a concern about your mental health or have received a diagnosis of a mental disorder, chat groups may be available to address those issues and conditions. For some people, chatting with someone online who is struggling with the same conditions that they are can be comforting. The people in support groups often share tips on how to better manage their condition as well. The online group also gives you a chance to tell your own story and talk about your feelings. In these respects, online chat with strangers that share something in common can be extremely helpful.
However, not all people in online support groups want to get better or learn to manage their disease. They may only be there to complain and get someone to listen to their excuses for not trying. They look at everything in the most negative light. These people can lead you to despair and depression if you pay too much attention to what they say. They may advise you to go off your meds or stop seeing your psychiatrist or therapist. This advice can cause you great harm. They threaten your mental health and may even put your physical wellbeing in jeopardy.
It's okay to spend time chatting in a support group, whether online or in person. Just remember that these are fellow sufferers and may not always have the best advice. They may be going through things you've already conquered. If you find yourself being too influenced by their negative attitude, the best thing you can do is to leave the support group. Try again another day if you like, but don't keep going back if nothing changes from one visit to the next.
Chatting with a Counselor Is Different
It's very unlikely that you will know the counselor on an online therapy platform before you begin counseling. Still, there are many differences. If you've chosen a reputable platform, you can be assured that the counselor is certified or licensed and whatever experience they list is real. You have the benefit of a secure site where you can say whatever you want and never worry that your words will come back to haunt you. Rather than chatting with someone who is struggling through a crisis, you get to chat with someone who is stable and well-acquainted with how to manage personal challenges concerning relationships, personal identity and self-esteem, and any other mental health issue you want to discuss.
Advantages of Individual Therapy
While chatting online with strangers can often be helpful, a better option for people who have serious questions or mental health issues is to speak to a trained professional counselor. Your counselor brings their education and experience to the table. Their focus is you and your mental health rather than what they can get out of the interaction. If you choose a therapist who specializes in your type of problems, they are well-versed in the types of therapy that work best in those situations.
Chatting one-on-one with a reputable online counselor gives you the opportunity to explore your issues in a completely secure way. No one will lash out at you for what you say in therapy like they might in a typical online chat room. No one tries to break your anonymity or get information from to use against you. The online world can be brutal at times. The last thing you need when you're facing problems is to open yourself to people who can't or don't react to you in positive ways. Online chat may be fine when you're feeling confident and secure, but at other times, the personal attention of a counselor is usually a better way to be heard and to learn helpful techniques for managing your crisis.
Chat Messages with a Counselor
At this point, you may be wondering what to do at the times you can't speak directly with your online counselor. Some counseling platforms offer another way to interact with your counselor. At BetterHelp, you have an individual chatroom that is set up for only you and your counselor. You can leave chat messages for them at the moments when you are experiencing unusual symptoms, have a question, want to share an insight, or any time at all that you feel you need to tell your counselor something. They answer the chat messages as soon as they can get back to you. In addition, you may have given them information that is crucial to your therapy. The therapist can then discuss it with you at your next phone, video, or live chat session.
You Don't Have to Quit Completely
If you really enjoy chatting online with strangers and feel it is helpful for you, there's no need to completely quit doing it unless it has become a harmful addiction. You can continue to have occasional online chats without disrupting the therapeutic process. If anything disturbing is said in the chats with strangers, you can bring your concerns to your counselor. The two of you can discuss what happened and your counselor can give their expert opinion on how to handle it. Then, you can evaluate your decision to continue chatting online and determine whether it's still a good idea for you.
What If You Don't Like the Therapist?
It would be wonderful if the first therapist you chose were exactly the person you needed to connect with, and that does happen more often than you might imagine. After all, you've read their bio, learned about their credentials and experience, and even seen a photo of them before you make that first educated guess. In the event that you aren't satisfied with the counselor/client relationship, you can always choose again. You can find someone new in just a few moments, just as you did the first time. You can request the old counselor to pass on your information to the new one, or if you choose, you can start over completely. There's really no reason to hesitate in seeking help if you want to talk to someone more experienced than a random person online. It's all only a few clicks away.