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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Byte Marks
Even cyber characters are categorized

By Burt Lum

As a participant in the online world, I cannot escape the occasional lure to psychoanalyze some of the cyber characters I meet. Given enough time chatting, certain patterns start repeating themselves. This is in no way meant to be judgmental about chat rooms. In reality, I would encourage greater participation. Whether lurking or conversing, it is better to have been ignored in chat than never to have chatted at all.

I've explored many chat environments, some general in nature and others with specific topics of interest. Here are a few general observations:

First, there are the lurkers. They typify the newbie or shy personality. There is nothing wrong with this. Once you overcome the fear factor, it's fun to participate.

Next there is short attention span syndrome (SASS): They pop in, say "Hi," and then leave. Or they might engage in short conversation and then go idle.

Then there are those that log on with names that defy gender orientation. Names like Hairygirl, Xsocialist, noname, Sweet16 or Quark make you wonder who is on the other end.

One prevalent phenomenon is unsociable or unruly behavior. I attribute this to the anonymous nature of chat. Whether or not you have an avatar or a text name representing you, your real-life persona can be separated from your online persona. Society applies pressure toward acceptable behavior, while the Internet holds no bars. Chat provides an environment for people to act however they want.

With all the characters that abound in a chat environment — coupled with the spontaneous, concise, multi-user interaction it promotes — chat not only offers entertaining social intercourse but also provides a rich environment to study human behavior. For a more thorough look into this subject, check out John Suler's online article on the Psychology of Cyberspace (www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/psycyber.html). Perhaps a new appreciation for the cyber-experience will arise. ;-)

Burt Lum, cyber-citizen and self-anointed tour guide to the Internet frontier, is one click away at burt@brouhaha.net