Small talk is a wonderful thing. For millennia human beings have whiled away the time by talking about insignificant things like the weather, the welfare of mutual acquaintances and where they are going on their holidays. In fact, we love chatting so much that we’ve worked out a way we can do it instantly, 24 hours a day, with anyone in the world and we don’t even have to move our lips. That’s right; online dating for free was a fad twelve years ago but now we can’t remember a time when we didn’t AOL or MSN instant messengers at our fingertips.
Of course, as soon as the first email was sent our telephone lines have been a hotbed for digital love stories. The first dating sites took the form of ‘bulletin boards’ where users could send text-based messages to each other, and ever since then lovers have stayed up all night with their eyes fixed to the screen, waiting for the object of their desire to reply with another piece of witty repartee. This writer recalls spending long evenings chatting to school friends, saying the things one could never say to the girls’ faces.
Nowadays, every online dating network worth its salt has a built-in instant chat feature. These particular chat apps are designed specifically for dating, and therefore have a more romantic slant; some of them even come pre-loaded with ‘chat-up lines’ along the lines of “Are you tired? ‘Cause you’ve been running through my mind all day” as well as virtual gifts and gestures you can send your lover. Not even the most hardened love-sceptic can resist the heart-melting combo that is a small emoticon of a rose and a winky face, and it makes it easier for those with a bit less ‘game’ to make the first move.
The best points about chat are that it possesses a sense of reality and immediacy that can come very close to the stimulus of a ‘real’ face-to-face conversation; however it allows both parties to think about what they are going to say before they press Send. Not all of us can work out the right things to say to a prospective partner off of the tops of our heads so a little helping hand along the way is welcome, so rather than being just a passing fad it would seem that instant chat is not going anywhere.