Special/Signature Issues » 30th Anniversary Issue

The shocking emergence of online chat rooms.

Nov. 12, 1996

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Introducing cybersex: It's 1996 and we've just caught wind of the terrific, sordid trend on the newfangled interwebs. In "Lust in Space," Style reports: "Chat is a word your Great Aunt Ethel used to say, as in, 'Come over here honey and chat with me awhile.' Then she'd pinch your cheek. Old Ethel would probably be shocked to learn what the '90s connotation of chat is, that there are entire chat rooms where the so-called 'chat' is less than wholesome."

Clinical psychologist Leigh Thornton warned of the dangers of "compulsive surfing of explicit graphics or chat rooms for excitement or gratification at the expense of putting energy into development of healthy relationships."

Meanwhile, an anonymous writer whose byline read a "Confessed Cyberslut," created a list of truisms about men based on three months of online cybering. Most are probably still true. Among other things, she observes: "Size does matter ... to men," and "If a man's online profile sounds too good to be believed, it is too good to be believed."

The era of the America Online chat room may still haunt some, but 16 years later and we've more or less moved on — to sexting.

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