Even if typical social norms don’t get followed in a lot of person-to-person interactions, most people are at least aware of them. Things like your tone of voice, body language, and the way you dress give the other person clues about who you are. The dynamic is a bit different with random video chats, though. For instance, a low-key, chill presence in-person might come off as apathetic or lazy over a webcam.
Because the social dynamics of video chats aren’t the same as in real life, it doesn’t hurt to know about them before you sign up for video chatting. That way, you’ll be walking into a new situation prepared, instead of relying on 20/20 hindsight.
1. Figure out which kinds of chats you enjoy.
Part of the appeal of random video chats on popular sites like CamSurf is that you never know what you’re going to end up with. It’s like getting candy on Halloween. You get something different from every house, and even if you don’t love all of it, it’s always fun to see how many of your favorites you end up with.
Since you’ll be talking with so many different types of people, be ready to adjust your flow. Some people just want some casual chatting, others have a story to tell, and a few are there to talk about a specific subject. Depending on the kind of conversation you’re having, you may or may not need to contribute very much.
This is something that definitely gets easier with practice. It may not get easier for you to have conversations that you didn’t think you’d enjoy, but you’ll be able to tell whether or not to stick with a chat in less than a minute. It may not be worth your while to listen to someone’s Star Trek fan theories – or, you might find it relaxing to listen to the sound of an actual human being’s voice. Whatever the case, video chatting isn’t a challenge or a social experiment. If a chat just isn’t floating your boat, there’s really no reason to stick it out; just excuse yourself and move on.
2. Decide what you want to talk about before you start chatting
Knowing the general direction you want to go in will help you avoid a lot of awkward silences. A lot of people will already have something on their minds, but in many cases, you could enter a chat and find yourself staring and laughing aimlessly while wondering what to say.
Fortunately, since you have time to prep before any of these interactions, you can be armed and ready with all kinds of ice-breakers, one-liners, and entertaining games. For example, try starting off with a Monty Python line. Even if the other person doesn’t recognize the reference, they’ll probably think it’s hilarious anyway. Or, you could challenge them to a contest – the person with the best dad joke wins. There are even some games that can be played without cards or boards, like “would you rather” and “truth or dare”. If you find yourself floundering in a chat, suggest one of these ideas and see where it takes you.
If you wanted to have more meaningful conversations, you could find people to talk with who shared similar interests. It could be anything from hiking to cheese-making – you’ll eventually find someone who loves it as much as you do.
The opposite tactic works as well: decide on a subject that you know nothing about, and chat with people who can enlighten you. It could be something as basic as “how to make killer brownies”, or as complicated as “how to put together an indoor herb garden”.
3. Make sure you’re chatting from a suitable location
In any case, it’s probably best to chat at home rather than in public. Random video chats tend to be unpredictable; most of the time this is a good thing, but you never know when something’s going to pop up that nobody wanted to see.
It’s also best to chat from a place where distractions are at a minimum. It doesn’t have to be a completely calm environment, but you don’t want the other person to have a hard time focusing on you because of everything else that’s going on. People passing through in the background is fine, but your roommate practicing their drum skills would be a problem.
While you’re thinking about what’s in the background, it wouldn’t hurt to pay some attention to things like lighting, the camera angle, etc. Even if you’re normally a lively person, bad lighting could make you look like a sleep-deprived zombie. It even works the other way around. You could look like a sleep-deprived zombie, but with the right lighting, nobody will even know.
4. Set some boundaries
Just like in the real world, you’ll run into people here and there who you probably shouldn’t interact with via video chat. Whether they’re trying to steal your identity, or simply messing with you for kicks, it’s important to know when to use the “next” button – even if the conversation isn’t finished. If you aren’t benefitting from the chat, there isn’t much point in you hanging around; even more so if the other person is actually trying to take advantage of you.
5. Be authentic
Everyone knows at least one person who seems to be able to make friends with anybody. Even if that isn’t you, chances are you’re still totally worth getting to know just as you are. If you end up making friends through a video chat, it should be because they think you’re awesome, not because you pretended to be someone who’s supposedly cooler than you are. Don’t be afraid to stand out!
Friendships are waiting on video chat sites
If you think video chatting could be fun, there’s no reason to put it off any longer – just hop in there and give it a whirl! If you have a webcam, an internet connection, and you’re 18 or over, you already have everything you need for some awesome video chats.