Chat rooms or applications – often associated with traps, “addiction”, and fleeting relationships – can sometimes be valuable, helpful tools. We could say, referring to a famous proverb, that not all social networks are a bad. We often dwell on the negative effects that hyper-connection has on our lives and, in particular, on the youngest, the most fragile, and less emotionally stable people.
All “chat apps” are seen to feed addiction, encourage estrangement from reality, reinforce fear of real relationships, and grow vices – which eventually spiral out of control. And that’s not all! The list of problems generated or accentuated by social networks is even longer. However, there are also positive aspects.
A chat room or app, for example, might be the easiest way to reach teens who are having a hard time.
This is what the founders of Krisenchat, a German messaging app designed in Berlin just over a year ago, have understood. In order to help teenagers in crisis, they offer them psychological support through the messaging application.
A chat room that rescues children and teens
"The idea came from three 18 year old persons last spring. And today it functions as a support tool for many young people in difficulty," Bernd Janning, 38, a psychologist and operator of the platform in the field, tells Italian news agency ANSA.
Offering a helping hand to youth who are going through tough times by using a tool they like has been quite successful.
It is currently the only chat room of its kind in Europe, but who knows if others might be inspired by it and create similar ones in their own countries.
Janning explains the importance of taking action, stating: "One in five of those who contact us has suicidal thoughts.”
Chat rooms aren’t therapy, but they’re a kind of first aid kit
The pandemic, followed by the consequent lockdowns, has intensified already problematic situations and magnified fears and fragility; depression has been exacerbated by isolation.
Krisenchat has therefore grown more than its creators could ever have imagined.
What’s more, young people, who are normally "too shy to ask for help," have found it easier to do so through a form of communication that doesn’t require putting a face to the name – at least in the first stages of outreach.
Many, by writing anonymously, without having to look the other person in the face, have opened up and found the courage to talk about their problems.
Janning says: "Today we have 350 operators and we are active 24 hours a day, exclusively via chat. We are contacted by about 5,000 people per month on average, but we've already exceeded 10,000 more than once in a single month: since the start, the number of messages exchanged has exceeded one million. [...] We are not therapists, though," he adds. The chat room acts more as a kind of first aid.
Soliciting Help Outside of a Chat Room
The purpose of this app is not to replace help “in the flesh.” Rather, it serves to guide, encourage, and motivate those who need more serious help to get it.
"We urge them to talk to someone they trust, whether it's the teacher or a relative, if they don't trust their parents."
A possible next step might be to encourage the transition from chat to actual therapy, perhaps in digital form.
Not all that glitters on the internet is gold, but in spite of so much rubbish circulating on the web, there are also tools that serve the betterment of mankind.
Instead of demonizing the web, we could enhance the good that’s there, follow the example the promoters of this chat have set, and commit ourselves to standing in solidarity, so that the communal good prevails, even online, over malice and narcissism.