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So I’ve mentioned the chat room that I enjoy chatting in – #AdultsOnly, on IRC. Over recent weeks, there have been a few events happening among our regular chatters that have left me doing quite a bit of thinking.

First off, what is IRC? IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. One can use either a website, or a chat program to connect to a network and join a room to interact with other chatters. The basic format is the same – you will see a list of names on one side of the screen. At the bottom is a text box, where you will enter something, press enter and see it appear in the main window above. From there, other people in the room will respond to what you wrote.

To me, it is another form of communication. You could almost liken it to a conference call, with several people involved. Except, instead of seeing faces and talking vocally, you are seeing text on a screen. The end result is still the same – you are in contact with other people from all over the country. All over the world, even. What you say (write on the screen, if you want to put it that way) has an impact on the other chatters who are there. They interpret what you say in their minds and respond accordingly.

I have been told that some people think that IRC is not real. It’s just a game. It has no effect on real life. I fully agree that IRC is meant to be fun and the people connect to chat rooms to enjoy themselves.

But where exactly can you draw the line? Can you draw a line at all?

What I mean is this. How do you explain it when two people make a connection? I have met my husband off IRC. I know of friends who have moved across the country – across the world – to be with someone they loved and met online.

How do you draw the line between IRC and real life? Is there a line that can be drawn? It is very easy to say that the line is drawn when you disconnect from that chat room. But what about the friends you made there? I am sure that everyone who has joined a chat room for a substantial amount of time (a week or so) has considered giving someone contact details, so that they can remain in touch when not chatting. Many take it steps further and meet face to face. Either in a group, or one on one.

Suddenly, those lines become very vague. Because you’re now interacting on several different levels. Chat room. E-mail. Telephone. Where do you draw that line and say, well, what happened in the chat room stays there. What happened offline (real life) stays there. Even if it is just words on a screen, there are still real people on the other side of that screen, who have a different outlook on what IRC is all about, compared to you. What you say affects them too, whether you like it or not.

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