Intense thinking, restless typing for hours on the keyboard, waiting for that ping so that you could finally start a private chat with someone who had caught your interest for a while. You would start with a Yahoo email id, download the Yahoo Messenger and sign in. With bated breath you wait for the sleeping, grey Yahoo emoticon face to wake up and beam with a certain joy, a wicked smile. Almost as if it’s telling you, “Once you go in, you can never come out”. You don’t realise it then, but you’re caught.
Now you’ve reached the place where you can choose your Chat Room. It’s like you choose your domain. It could be anything – Pokemon, Harry Potter, a regional chat room (if you’re the type who needs to socialize with people around your area) and so many more. It was heavenly, it was like talking to someone who is always listening, and listening to someone who is always talking. Create your own fancy “Avatar” (this was before the Na’vi and that failed movie by M. Night Shyamalan) so that you never have to reveal your bad hair days or acne to the world. Instant acceptance, instant gratification and instant messaging – all went hand-in-hand (in a strange, three-hand alien sort of way).
The Dreams Come True
So, maybe your Yahoo Chat Room experience wasn’t as elaborate as mine, maybe you got bored in a few hours and left. Nevertheless, I made a variety of friends across different time zones. People who claimed to be living in various exotic locations (like Kerala) and had such interesting lives. The only problem was that I had made up a different life for each one of them, so there used to be a lot of reading of hat history involved before I could safely ping these people and talk to them. Also, these conversations involved thinking like a 25 year old woman, a 17 year old boy and a 30 year old woman at the same time. Intense? Yes. Cumbersome? Never. There were of course mundane claims that I’d make to all my “online friends” – “I look a lot like that animated avatar”, “I like you too!”, “Of course I’ve read that book!”. It was such a lovely place for people to congregate and discuss about social events and well, okay hit on other people of course.
The Dream Ends
An unthinking decision on my part ruined everything. Who knew that installing a web-camera with a child-like greed in the eyes would result in the destruction of the very world that meant everything at that stage. One moment, I was just an avatar, with no way in which people could see the real me. The next moment, I was agreeing to “Do you have a web-cam? Can you turn it on?” questions without making sure that my hair were in place or that maybe acne season was not the best time to show yourself off to the world. It was too late, and here’s how it went-
young_ayush: So u hv cam nw?? :D
<mylastname><myfirstname>@yahoo.com: Ya! I do….itz awsm1
<mylastname><myfirstname>@yahoo.com: *! sry.
young_ayush: cul. put it on?
<mylastname><myfirstname>@yahoo.com: nw…? lets tok mre.
young_ayush: v hv tokd 4 so mny dayzz! put it on na….
<mylastname><myfirstname>@yahoo.com: k..k. w8.
This is where I proceeded to turn on the webcam, keeping the video on for myself to see as well. With weird open, oily hair and strange effects that the poor lighting had, coupled with the low-quality web-cam I bought, the effect created by my video was quite horrific. young_ayush logged off, his chat icon on offline, without saying a word, after just two minutes of streaming.
That’s when I realized that there was no way in which I could modify the video settings enough to make him understand that I didn’t really look that bad. Also, it made it obvious that in the chat-rooms, they might tell you that they love talking to you, but the moment they realize that you’re actually just a chubby kid on the other side, they disregard your words.
Of course, it helps that online chatting became rapidly “un-cool” and Yahoo! today is relevant only because of Flickr. Nevertheless, there was something about that place, which draws me back to its corridors, replaces this hollow shell with a sense of belonging.
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