And right now there are three people in Chat, but there's no way of knowing exactly who until you are in there, and the chat room she finds not so comforting. It's strange even with friends, like sitting in a pitch-dark cellar conversing with people at a distance of about fifteen feet.
The distance/dark metaphor (simile, technically) nails the problem of turn-taking in chat. With no non-verbal signals, turn-taking is problematic. (The same thing can happen in phone calls with significant time-delay.) One innovation that I’ve noticed helps turn taking is the relatively new “X is now typing” cues, though these exist primarily in instant messaging programs, not sure about chat rooms. Aim states it:
Google Talk gives an icon:
Both help reduce the “15 feet” effect.