Chatting with people online can have benefits like reduced loneliness and increased social support. However, it can also come with risks, such as encountering scammers, accidentally downloading malware, and experiencing bullying. For this reason, it can be vital to exercise caution when chatting with others online. A few websites you may try can include Discord, Twitch, and Telegram, each of which may offer opportunities to speak with others about topics you’re interested in. If chatting with people via the internet isn’t enough to relieve feelings of loneliness, you might consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for professional support.
Potential Benefits Of Online Chat
Some people have a stereotypical image of online chat rooms as hostile places filled with people venting rage or posting misinformation. While internet spaces can sometimes become forums for hate speech and other kinds of negative communication, they may also offer benefits to many people.
Perhaps the most straightforward way that chatting online can be helpful is by making it easier to interact with others. Some people may find it difficult or impossible to leave their homes, whether due to physical disability, quarantining to avoid the spread of disease, or mental health challenges like agoraphobia.
If you’re in a similar situation, chatting over the internet could enable you to talk with other people despite these obstacles. This might be helpful if you struggle with anxiety in social situations.
Talking to others online may do more than relieve boredom. For some people, it could make an important difference in their mental health. Taking part in social groups may have defensive effects against mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. If you think your feelings of loneliness are affecting your psychological well-being, finding people to chat with online might offer some relief.
The helpful effects of online communities could be even more significant for people whose identities are stigmatized by those around them. For example, many transgender people report that connecting with others through the internet can be an important part of coping with the mental health impacts of discrimination. Web-based chat can be an important way for marginalized people to find others with similar experiences, even if their families or local communities are not supportive.
Risks And Drawbacks Of Online Chat
Despite the potential advantages described above, there may still be some hazards to watch out for when chatting with strangers online. Perhaps the most well-known is the risk of being tricked out of your money by unscrupulous people pretending to be friends, romantic partners, potential employers, or would-be business partners. The Federal Trade Commission reported that romance scammers may have taken more than $500 million in 2021 — an 80% increase over the previous year.
Online chat spaces can be popular among scammers due to the fact that they can serve as an endless source of new potential targets. It’s generally a bad idea to send money, personal details, or explicit photos of yourself to anyone you’ve never met in person.
You also may want to make it a rule not to download software or click on links sent to you in dubious chat rooms. Doing so could leave your computer infected with malware.
There may also be mental health risks in spending lots of your time in online chats. These kinds of discussions often have very little moderation. As a result, they may be targeted by people who are more interested in abusing or belittling people than having a friendly discussion.
Some may even post content encouraging self-harming behaviors. This content is usually removed quickly from mainstream social media sites, but smaller personal chats may not be as effectively moderated.
What Are The Best Places To Chat Online?
Where can you go if you’re interested in chatting with other people over the web? Here are some excellent options to choose from. Remember that these sites and apps may not be exempt from the risks described above, so you’ll probably want to exercise caution when using them.
Discord: Text And Voice Chat With A (Slight) Gaming Emphasis
Many people have heard of Discord only as a tool for teams to communicate while playing Call of Duty or World of Warcraft. Yet, it’s generally evolved into something much more than that. Although it was originally created for gamers, the company reported in 2020 that 70% of its users were not using it primarily for gaming. It’s mainly gained a reputation as a multipurpose messaging site that can be used to host online communities of all kinds.
With a free account, Discord users can enter personal servers to communicate with friends, but there are also many servers open to the public. Each server typically hosts dozens of channels where you can exchange text messages or even voice chats with users from around the web. Discord generally has servers for a wide range of purposes, including the following:
- Streaming and discussing games
- Creating art
- Bringing together fans of particular TV shows, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc.
- Chatting about filmmaking or other creative pursuits
- Talking about sports (and fantasy sports)
- Exchanging memes
There may also be some servers where users can simply talk about anything with no topic limitations. ChillZone may be one of the best-known servers for this, but there can be many others.
Many of Discord’s public servers are moderated, though this may often be handled by bots or volunteers. This app may not be a complete free-for-all, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t see offensive or upsetting content.
Twitch: Streaming-Focused Chat Spaces
Twitch is another platform originally centered around gaming that’s grown far beyond its initial purpose. The app is still built around the channels of content creators who stream live videos for their audiences, but it’s generally no longer just about playing and commenting on games.
Thanks to the rise of “TwitchIRL,” it’s now possible for streamers to talk about anything and everything, and this less-structured content seems to be overtaking game-related streamers in popularity. (Of course, there are still plenty of game streaming channels for those who are interested.)
A big part of Twitch’s appeal for many users is the ability to chat with one another or with the streamers they’re watching. Many channels have developed into tight-knit online communities. And the discussion doesn’t necessarily end when the stream does — users often arrange to hop into other channels to continue conversing there.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in watching a live stream while talking, there are often “Just Chat” channels dedicated entirely to hosting conversations. Twitch can be a great place to talk and bond with people over common interests.
Telegram: Cross-Platform Messaging For Those With Safety Concerns
If you like the idea of a free messaging service with built-in safety features, you may be interested in Telegram. This service generally enables chat groups ranging from small-group threads for close friends to large-scale discussion forums.
Some have argued that Telegram may not be as reliable as it claims. Regardless of how safe it is, you probably can’t be too careful about discussing sensitive information over the internet. However, as long as you remain cautious, Telegram can be a great resource for meeting and interacting with new people.
Connecting With A Therapist Can Also Help With Loneliness
While online chat groups may ease feelings of isolation, they typically can’t provide the same kind of dedicated mental health support as a licensed therapist. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other negative emotions related to loneliness, it may be best to seek help from a professional. These days, you can do that online, too.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
Platforms like BetterHelp can empower you to conduct therapy sessions remotely, which can be a fast and convenient way to find a therapist. It may also be a more comfortable option if you find in-person social interactions difficult.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
A 2020 study investigated the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy for loneliness. It found that the online intervention generally decreased the amount of time participants spent feeling lonely, suggesting that online therapy may be a valid form of treatment for feelings of loneliness.
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