Bunichat Discussions: When Sparks Fly! (Prologue)
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I have come across a lot of different personalities and characters in the Bunibuni chat room. There is something unique about our Bunibuni chat room where people can see and hear each other—the interactions become very real. As anyone who has spent any length of time in chat rooms would readily attest, many chat rooms out there are really little more than directionless aggregations of total strangers forced to share a chat space for a short while before they go about their regular businesses. In ordinary chat rooms, most of the interactions are written. A participant would type up some contribution and post it hoping to receive some feedback or a response. If someone reads it and responds, then some discussion can be had. Otherwise, as new chatters can readily tell, it is possible for no one to read or bother replying things that one might type up and post.
It is therefore hardly surprising to discover that in such chat rooms (where one cannot see or hear other participants) there is a level of detachment that a participant often feels with respect to the other members of the chat room. To many people in such faceless and voiceless chat rooms, chatting is just some abstraction; something impersonal or far removed from real life social interactions albeit that from time to time as people continue to converse by means of typewritten text on screen, the degree of estrangement or anonymity begins to dwindle. Some may even wind up trading phone numbers or their personal pictures in a bid to get to know or understand their interlocutor more clearly. At any rate, the anonymity, aloofness or detachment that is usually the case for users of most chat rooms has the effect of coarsening the discourse—why indeed would one be mindful of the way one addressed some ‘moniker’ on the screen? After all, when one logs off, it is assumed that one instantly forgets the brief and usually directionless exchanges there. It is therefore hardly surprising to notice the deplorable, uncivil and decadent prattle that make the rounds in these festering conversational cesspools where there are no rules or enforcers to check against the vagaries of irresponsible unbridled speech.
This was not the case in the Bunibuni chat room when it began. Bunibuni chat room had a very important feature which was not usually found in many traditional online chat rooms—i.e. one can see and hear one’s fellow discussants. This feature injected some vitality into the discussions there. The interactions no longer consisted of emotionless and powerless words on a screen which may only derive their force from some reader’s understanding and disposition. In our Bunibuni chat room, the laughter was real; the jokes even more hilarious; the personal anecdotes narrated were endearing and heartwarming; the friendships forged were genuine; a person’s true self effortlessly shone through. It was because one could see and hear others in this room that we also had to make sure the atmosphere in the room remained convivial, familial and civil. When you get to see, hear and know more about people—as the room afforded us the opportunity to do—any abuse of, careless speech against, or gossip regarding the active members of our Bunibuni family thus acquired real force and potency. Such chat or social improprieties had the power to silence people; make them stop chatting, or worse make them stop getting on their cams or mics. For that reason, we took prompt and decisive action against people who at the time seemed to revel in hurling insults at the cherished members of our chat room.
In hindsight, I can say that this policy served us well. Bunibuni became a room where serious interactions happened and people were not afraid to express themselves. Nevertheless, as in all things human, as more and more people joined the Bunibuni family there always arose issues that separated or divided people, and on which considerable emotional energy was spent. It did not help matters when people who already knew of our room rules and policy disregarded such to openly harass or insult. It became a tricky situation for admins to separate malicious invectives and dissocial commentary from a simple spat or dispute between friends or acquaintances in the very least. It became a delicate affair to separate the common and old-fashioned ribbing such as one might expect in large company and downright bilious exchanges. It didn’t even help that some accused the admins of partisanship when the admins merely sought to protect the regular and well-known members of the Bunibuni family against the unnecessary and unwarranted attacks of the lesser known or altogether unknown (and possibly name-changing) few.
Be that as it may, discussions and interactions have continued and will continue in Bunichat even though the moderating standards have been relaxed considerably. People will continue to mingle even though the admins are no longer as stern as they used to be. Such a precipitous decline in moderating standards was not without its sad unintended effects—there has been a huge reduction in peer-to-peer interactions; what was once an oasis of mature deliberations have been marred by months and years of puerile peevishness, crude exchanges, and vicious gossip. Many simply abstained from chatting since doing such only served to heighten their blood pressure and anxiety; others moved on to other things since the spirit of camaraderie that once enveloped the room seemed to have been irretrievably lost.
However, I am of the opinion that all is not lost. Unless the room is closed permanently, I still believe that with the passage of former stars, the room will secure new members. I am not one who seeks for multitudes and so, I am okay with the idea that the room might continue to experience a cathartic purge to the extent that it returns to a state where there may be only a few well-meaning friends communicating as convivially as had been the tradition in times past.