Whether it’s flirting in chat rooms, blowing people up in online gaming arenas or arguing in newsgroups, the Internet is home to a vast and varied population. With such a range of activities available, is the Net better than real life? Before the Internet, there was TV. The concept was simple; you watched it until you got bored and then you went to do something else, like watching a bigger screen at the local cinema or meeting friends at the pub. Then along came the Internet and with it a whole new way of socializing was born. So now, when there’s nothing on TV and you can’t be bothered to go to the pub, you needn’t be stuck reading yesterday’s paper. Thanks to the Internet, and the many people on it, you can have a rich and varied social life without leaving the house. Best of all, the Web’s global reach means that, no matter what time of day or night, you can be comparing conspiracy theories, discussing the finer points of DIY or meeting new people and attacking them with assault rifles. If it’s scintillating conversation you’re after, newsgroups are the place to go. You’ll find groups dedicated to your favorite TV shows, bands, sick jokes, or libelous gossip about celebrities, and just about any other discussion you wish to engage in. Whatever subject you want to talk about, there’s a newsgroup for it. Tall Tales You can get into fights with the Americans or with the Brits, or discover the truth about tall tales. There are plenty of useful newsgroups too, ranging from computer advice to support for illnesses and problems. Newsgroups aren’t for people of a sensitive disposition. For every funny group or useful support forum, there’s a dodgy newsgroup packed with illegal images or cracked software, and almost every newsgroup is plagued with posts from adult sites and idiots. You shouldn’t use your real email address either in your messages, otherwise you will get spammed with junk mail from unscrupulous junk email spammers. Don’t let this put you off, newsgroups are still the most interesting and funniest place on the Internet. Forums If you like the sound of newsgroups but don’t like the associated risks, there are plenty of other ways to get into discussions on the Net. Discussion forums offer the best of both worlds; you can visit them using your Web browser or access them with your newsgroup software. Forums provide plenty of opportunity for the cut and thrust of debate, and you don’t need to worry about dodgy content or evil spammers. Webmasters know that one of the most effective ways to keep people coming to their site is to supply a message board where visitors can meet new people and get into huge fights with them. Almost every big name site you can think of has some sort of discussion board, whether it’s a music site or a news site. Group Chats If you fancy something a bit more interesting, group chats are the way to go. You can even talk in real time. IRC is one such real time chat line that has been one of the most successful on the Internet. You need an IRC client and you can even chat one on one in private with someone interesting. If someone annoys you, simple ignore that person and you can have a wonderful chat with anyone that suits your fancy. IRC is extremely addictive and definitely not for kids because of its anarchic nature. You don’t need to interact with people on the Web if you don’t want to, you can spy on them instead. But that’s another story.