The Dangers Of Private Chat Rooms Online
Updated February 27, 2019
Reviewer Deborah Horton
Private chat rooms online can seem like a great idea. They're a way for you to communicate, meet new people or maintain current relationships with people from all over the world via text or video, something that was never possible in the past as not so long ago this type of technology did not exist. A private chat room is also an easy alternative to use if you're feeling lonely or struggling with mental illness, where you might find comfort in talking to random people about your problems because they don't know about your past. Finding individuals online that are interested or struggle with the same issue as yourself can provide a sense of relief and normalcy because it is a lot easier to be open when you aren't facing the person and will probably never meet them in real life.
While these advancements in technology are great, there are several dangers of using private online chat rooms, especially for people who are vulnerable or simply not tech savvy.
The Dangers of Private Chat Rooms Online
The internet has a lot of great things to offer us, but of course, there's always someone looking to spoil the party. Trolls are people who like to create drama online by sharing offensive things, starting arguments, and generally being mean without reason. Trolls are thrill-seeking individuals, who lack impulse control and seek to cause psychological trauma.
According to March (2017), psychological studies have shown that internet "trolls" tend to be males who often show a high level of psychopathy traits. These traits include; lack of empathy, lack of remorse for their actions, low levels of guilt, callous, and elevated levels of sadistic behaviors. They enjoy and take pleasure in causing others physical and psychological distress. In fact, researchers at Federation University Australia tested 415 men and women, through an online questionnaire, over the age of 18 years old who regularly utilized social media. They examined a wide range of personality traits including social skills, psychopathy, sadism and two types of empathy: affective and cognitive to find out what characteristics in "normal people", adult social media users who did not display "troll" tendencies, might make them vulnerable to trolling activities or reveal a predisposition to "troll" (Weber, 2017). What they learned was that individuals regarded as a "troll" scored above average in two areas; psychopathy and cognitive empathy. Even though "trolls" did display a form of empathy, pairing it with psychopathy, a developmental disorder marked by emotional deficits makes them uncaring and nasty, the researchers advised (Weber, 2017).
So, what does all this means? Simply, the individuals in the study with the "troll" characteristics lacked the ability to recognize when someone is experiencing being upset or angry. Due to the lack of cognitive empathy, "trolls" are completely aware of what emotional buttons to push when posting on your page. An internet troll will never be able to internalize or care about your emotional reaction and the hurt they cause because they are incapable of feeling any genuine remorse. Therefore, if you're feeling insecure about yourself or struggling emotionally, the last thing you need to do is get caught up with a troll. They don't care about your emotional state and if you don't realize that they aren't worth the trouble, they can end up making you feel worse. Certainly, if your struggling with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence is important to know that trolls will continue to make your life miserable. There are many safer alternatives to deal with your internal struggles.
- Online Predators
As bad as trolls are, they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are worse people than internet trolls online, like actual predators who could befriend you with the intention to scam you for money or worse, abuse you. This might sound extreme, but it's important to know that not everyone in private online chat rooms has good intentions. Many individuals, considered to be online predators, use these chat rooms to locate, manipulate and "groom" potential vulnerable victims. They seek to steadily "groom" their victim online by giving them attention, affection, compassion, and kindness that is lacking in the victim's life and they will often devote considerable time and energy to achieve their end goal.
What exactly causes someone to be identified as an online predator? Niederhofer (2012), suggests that an online predator is a person who takes part in psychological and/or physical victimization of another individual. Online predators are motivated by acceptance, ego, power and control, revenge, mental instability, money, addiction, fetishes, deviant sexual fantasies, and poor self-esteem and will use digital technology, e.g. a private chat room, to target and prey upon individuals to harass, stalk or sexually abuse their victim. They are extremely good at controlling others and will create a trusting and relaxed environment online just so they can take advantage of their target. They are skillful and ruthless individuals who will use cognitive lies to justify their acts and will continue to commit their crimes repeatedly to satisfy their wants, needs and distorted desires (Niederhofer, 2012).
- Impermanence of Online Relationships
Have you ever heard of this TV show, Catfish? It's basically about people who pretend to be someone they're not online. They could be doing this for a variety of reasons.
In society today it is very common when feeling bored or lonely to visit chat rooms because they offer a place online where you get to possibly meet interesting individuals who are in search of a decent conversation with a likeminded chat partner as well. These arbitrary online relationships can turn into more than just a friendship and one can end up building a strong connection with someone that they have never met before. However, even if you're talking to the person, they say they are, one day it happens - POOF, they've disappeared, and you have no way of contacting them ever again. This term is often referred to as "ghosting." Ghosting has become a cultural phenomenon and many individuals do not understand why this happens to them. In a recent study by Freedman, Powell, Le & Williams (2018), they state that ghosting is clear-cut from other methods of ending relationships because it occurs without the other individual knowing that it has even happened. This sounds strange, right? Well, it is because when one relationship partner ghosts the other, the abrupt effect is simply a confusing lack of communication and with the existing forms of technology it has made ghosting a notorious relationship ending scheme. Persons who ghost are mainly fixated on sidestepping their own emotional pain and do not consider how it negatively affects the other individual. Despite this even though selfish it is still a common practice, therefore you should always be mindful of the fact that just how a person can one day randomly enter your life online they can also drop out of your life the very same way and leave behind a big mess of hurt, pain, rejection and unanswered questions that you will have to deal with on your own.
A Safer Alternative
You can see that even though private online chat rooms can be fun and exciting when you want someone to talk to, they also come with their fair share of risks. If you want to connect with someone online, there are safer ways to go. Such as online counseling.
Online counseling is one option that has recently been gaining popularity. Affordable and convenient services like BetterHelp can connect you with an experienced counselor who you can exchange unlimited messages with you. A counselor won't disappear on you like an online friend might instead they will provide you with a safe space where you can communicate your thoughts and feelings, whether positive or negative and never be judged based on your emotions and what you are going through. Every individual wants to feel appreciated and understood at a time when they are struggling with life issues and having someone who is interested and supportive in what you are experiencing on the other side of the keyboard or telephone can be life-changing.
If you're struggling with mental health or emotional problems, a counselor can help, encourage and teach you coping mechanisms that can have long-lasting positive effects on your life. Another benefit that BetterHelp allows is that you will able to participate in therapy where ever you are. Whether you live in a small town or a big city you will be able to access your counselor because you will be in control and able to choose how (messages, phone or video), where (home, car, or while taking a walk) and when (morning, afternoon or night) you want to discuss your personal difficulties.
The anonymity of a private chat room is a way to receive quick acceptance from individuals that you do not know and can invite participants to type about their difficulties rather than seek out real-life help. It's up to you whether you choose to take part in private chat rooms online now that you know the risks that are involved. Meeting new people on the internet can be an excellent way to form new relationships with people you never would have met otherwise, but it's important to always be aware and always remain cognizant about the intentions of others and of certain dangers that come with each chat room visit.
Don't let trolls bother you, for example, and be careful about what personal information you share online. Be skeptical of anyone who tells you a sob story to get you to send them money. These types of things should put up an immediate red flag and you should cease all communication between you and that person as your safety and wellbeing should be your number one priority. So, if you're looking for support through a tough time, know that online counseling sites, such as BetterHelp, is a safe and secure alternative.
Also, it is important that if you are being harassed, stalked or trolled and you really feel that you will be harmed, or your life is in danger please contact your local police department for assistance.
Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2018). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407517748791. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gili_Freedman/publication/322442819_Ghosting_and_destiny_Implicit_theories_of_relationships_predict_beliefs_about_ghosting/links/5a8335e6a6fdcc6f3eb001a3/Ghosting-and-destiny-Implicit-theories-of-relationships-predict-beliefs-about-ghosting.pdf
Evita, M. (2017). Trolls understand what hurts people, but they simply don't care. [online] ABC News. Retrieved from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-13/trolls-understand-what-hurts-people-but-they-simply-dont-care/8701424.
Niederhofer, J. (2012)., The Psychology of a Cyber Predator; Decoding the Deviate Mind PowerPoint., RSA Conference. Retrieved from: https://www.rsaconference.com/writable/presentations/file_upload/ht1-203.pdf.
Weber, C. (2017). Psychologists have identified the kind of emotional intelligence that makes internet trolls so mean. Retrieved from: https://qz.com/1021205/psychologists-identified-the-kind-of-emotional-intelligence-that-makes-internet-trolls-so-mean/.