I’m still fascinated by the psychological, social and emotional implications of internet use. With the recent introduction of Y! Live, deaf people are now spending an extraordinary amount of time in the online chatroom at Y! Live/Deafread. I know. I’m one of them. For the last 2 days, I’ve been a relational chatter — building friendships, nurturing old ones, and laughing until my cheeks ache with spasms! This place is like a potent drug. Definitely mood altering!
Last night, deafies swarmed Y! Live, making their way into Tayler Meyer’s channel (room). Many said they stayed until they were kicked off when the system stopped. What is it about this online phenomenon that has caused this sudden surge of visual chat among deaf people? Are deafies, in particular, suddenly more vulnerable to potential online addiction?
The psychoactive nature of this particular visual chat room draws us visual deaf people in swarms. Here we find immediate, accelerated intimacy and decreased inhibition. For some, there is even a loss of boundaries. One deaf chatter said she went to the home page of Y! Live and saw a guy walking around nude! Trolls abound.
Yet, throughout history, when deaf people gather together in one place, the quick exchange of cultural information, (i.e.: Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Family Deaf? When did you learn ASL?) provides us with an understanding of what we have in common, and we immediately bond. This is our culture. This is our way. Now that we know there is a place and space of our own, a place to gather and meet new people, share common interests and stories, and still remain open to the plethora of differences that make us each interesting and unique, we are heading there in droves!
This afternoon, as deafies gathered in the Y! Live DeafRead channel room, we laughed, teased, questioned, cried, welcomed cuers, exchanged signs, shared culture, discussed Deafhood, sweat over trying to bring those chatters whom we couldn’t see, into the live feed, and some even experimented with using microphones. It was a place of welcome and inclusion. A place of experiment. Deaf-initely, a place to belong.
However, this place has potentially dangerous downsides. It is truly, totally addicting! Hanging around in chat rooms has the potential to interfere with important aspects of our lives. Our frequent or lengthy participation can potentially lead to the neglect of spouses, partners, children, pets, homes and work. Time flies when you’re having fun, and before you know it, you forgot to fix dinner, feed the dog, get the mail, do your chores, quench your thirst or even use the bathroom! Hanging out in deaf chat rooms has the potential to cause muscle tension, headaches from rapid eye movement, stiff joints, and possible eventual weight gain! Eeek!
Thankfully, to combat these negative aspects of Y!-chatting, deaf chatters are already thinking ahead. Today, we encouraged each other to take stretch breaks, dance around the room to move our aching bodies, or position our web cams so we could sprawl out, kick back and lay down. We ate and shared virtual popcorn together, drank our waters and coffees, took lunch breaks, and some even got out into the great outdoors for a while before returning to pick up where they left off. Deaf chatters brought their families into view, stole kisses and hugs from their children, spouses and pets, and showed each other fun nic nacs and pictures from their desks. In essence, we worked at integrating our online and off line lives — A pretty healthy thing to do.
Regardless of the downsides, there is clearly something unique and powerful going on here in the deaf Y! chat community! As Charles Katz said at the Deafread Conference in February, “We’re living our history!” For me, the Y! Live/DeafRead Chat room experience has been entirely relational. Fun, Farout and Flippin! Still, I will continue to acknowledge the potential for addiction, and make sure I give myself healthy breaks, time for my family and attending to my own personal care needs. I hope we all encourage each other to do the same.
Now, my break is over and I’m feeling the tug. My body is stretched, my family has been attended to and fed, and we’re all relaxed and happy. So, I’m heading back on over there. Care to chat?
For people who fear themselves or someone they love may have an Internet Addiction, here’s a helpful site to visit: Center for Internet Addiction.