The Pros And Cons Of Video Chatting With Strangers

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated February 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Video chat with people you meet online can seem like a positive alternative when you don't have friends and family to talk to. Even if you have people in your life, you might choose a video chat platform if you're embarrassed about what you're going through or want to make new friends. Maybe you are new to an area and have not connected with anyone yet. Some people may also use video chat when they're introverted or struggling with social anxiety. Whatever your situation, online chat can be an easy and quick way to socialize. 

People have used the internet for decades to meet and connect with others. However, video chat remains one of the safest ways to connect with strangers, offering individuals a chance to see someone else's face in real-time, as if they're in the room with you. 

With video chat, you may find people you click with, intriguing acquaintances, people you might not relate to, and people looking to flirt. You might meet many people before you find someone you feel comfortable talking to, which could be frustrating. However, regardless of how you use video chat, knowing the pros and cons of this online socialization method and how to use it safely can be essential. 

It can be hard to meet new people in a safe environment

The pros and cons of video chatting

If you have considered video chatting with strangers online, this method has a few advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind, including the following. 

Advantages of video chatting with strangers 

Below are some potential advantages of meeting someone on video chat platforms: 

  • You can talk to people from a different city, state, or country 
  • You can get to know people with similar niche interests 
  • You can connect and make new friends 
  • Unlike chat rooms, video chat platforms allow you to see and hear the person you're talking to, allowing you to know they're who they say they are
  • You can connect with people at convenient times
  • You can maintain a distance while being close at the same time
  • You can assess someone online before an in-person meeting

Disadvantages of video chatting with strangers 

Although video chatting can be fun and convenient, there are a few disadvantages to this format of chatting to keep in mind as well, including the following: 

  • You may not be able to know one's motives. 
  • If the person in the video doesn't talk, you might not be able to know if the video of them is a recording or a live video.  
  • People you meet and form relationships with online may disappear after a while, and you may not be able to reach them. 
  • People can appear different online than they do in person. 
  • True intimacy and connection are often exaggerated online, so projection and a false sense of closeness can occur. 
  • You cannot fully observe the person's behaviors and have a close physical connection that occurs offline. 
  • A person may appear ideal online but be unhealthy or unkind offline.  

Safety tips while using an online video chat platform 

As video chatting can sometimes be unsafe, it may be beneficial to keep in mind the following safety tips when using a video chat platform to talk to a stranger: 

  • If someone isn't speaking on the video and doesn't seem to be reacting to you, the video may be a recording. 
  • Don't perform sexual acts for another person over video chat, as you may be recorded. 
  • Don't give your bank or credit card information online. 
  • If you're uneasy about someone, trust your instincts.  
  • If you're a minor, don't use a video chat platform online to talk to strangers. 
  • Don't meet up with a stranger you met online unless you are confident the situation is safe, you're over 18, and you are meeting in a public location. 

Alternatives to random video chat forums 

Although random video chat forums can be fun and allow you to make new friends, they can also lead to dangerous situations. Below are a few alternatives to these video chat sites. 

Support group websites 

Various mental health organizations online use platforms like Zoom to allow individuals to meet in groups with others with similar experiences. There are hundreds of ways to find support online, and you may be able to find support groups for the following topics: 

  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Family and relationship challenges
  • LGBTQIA+ challenges 
  • Making new friends 

While these platforms may be helpful, users are not professionals. Their feedback may be biased, and they may be unable to separate their challenges from yours. If you're looking for a support group guided by a therapist, some online therapy platforms may offer this option.  

Meetup groups 

Some online groups may meet on platforms like Discord and use the video chat or voice call feature to talk to each other. These platforms are often safer because you can monitor the accounts of others, and some groups may have administrators and moderators to ensure everyone in the chat is kind and interacting safely with one another. 

These groups differ from support groups because they aren't necessarily focused on mental health or topics that require support. Instead, you might interact with people who like the same video games or fandoms as you or talk to someone in your community. 

TikTok live and streaming sites

Although they are not necessarily video chats, you can meet new friends and talk to people on TikTok Live and some streaming sites. TikTok Live allows you to connect with creators on TikTok who have at least 1,000 followers. You can send them gifts, talk to them as they livestream, and learn about their page. 

These apps may be safer than random chatting apps, as millions of people use them, and the apps themselves have algorithms to reduce the chances of unsafe conduct. As the creators already have a following, they may be more trustworthy. 

Online dating sites

Dating sites can provide a means to connect with people online who are looking for a partner or friend. Some of these sites are free, while others charge a fee. While the rate of real-life success at making a long-term connection may be unclear, these apps offer a way to meet people in your area and worldwide. 

Some dating apps offer a video chat feature within the app for safety. However, check whether the app verifies the profiles of the users before talking to someone. 

It can be hard to meet new people in a safe environment

Online counseling

If you chat with others online to cope with challenging emotional situations or mental health, you might consider online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp. Exploring vulnerable topics with unprofessional strangers, even if you believe they are safe, can result in disappointment, unhelpful advice, or a lack of genuine support. 

Many studies have found that online therapy platforms—including video chat services—can provide effective mental healthcare to those experiencing challenges. In a comprehensive review published by Oxford University Press, researchers evaluated the efficacy of therapy delivered via videoconferencing. Researchers also noted that online therapy could prevent symptoms from being exacerbated due to the stress of commuting to a mental health provider.

With an online platform, you can use video chat, live messaging, or voice chat. Since you don't have to commute, you may not have to drive in traffic, find parking, miss work, or sit in a waiting room. In addition, since you're speaking to a professional, the video chat is tailored to you, and you only, unless you're attending therapy with a partner. 

Counselor reviews

“Working with Alex for these last few months has been amazing! She is understanding, insightful and funny. I am so grateful I am on this journey with her. I feel safe and supported and my weekly video chats are everything! Since I started working with her, I feel more centered and have developed healthier habits.” 

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“I have greatly enjoyed working with Jason. We have met regularly via virtual video meetings over the past several months, and he has been incredible in helping me to address my stress at work, life, and everything in between, in the midst of a global pandemic. He is very adept at listening, identifying underlying thought processes, discussing issues, and working towards productive solutions. I always look forward to meeting with him, and I would highly recommend Jason to anyone and everyone!”

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Takeaway

There can be many advantages and disadvantages to meeting with a stranger online. However, note that online apps can often be unsafe. Many people use online apps to scam others. If someone is trying to scam you, use your instinct to know when to log off. 

You're not alone if you're struggling with your mental health or making friends. You can also use video chat to meet with a licensed professional. Consider contacting a therapist online to get started and see what professional video chatting can look like.

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