Updated 1/22/16 to include a slideshow of the article. See below.
Exploring submission online is a growing reality. Chat networks, IRC chat rooms and websites developed for real-time fantasy all have areas where the D/s subculture thrives online. They have developed online protocols, rituals, belief systems and several new words the enhance the fantasy online.
I was once an online submissive. Years ago this was a safe way for me to explore BDSM and my possible role in the Lifestyle. It still remains a relatively safe place for someone to learn about the Lifestyle. There are some precautions I'd like to express regarding that safety though.
Don't Share Everything
It may go without saying, but if I don't say it I will feel a responsibility to everyone one of you if something happens. There are predators online; from stalkers to identity thieves and even some plain old creepy people. Do not give out your full real name, address, phone number or any other REAL information about yourself. Even if you think you trust this person completely, you really can't online. You haven't a clue who is sitting at the other side of the keyboard; trust yourself with your information.
This also goes with sharing your family history, information about your relatives and friends, your job or anything else that could be used to dig up information about you. It's called personal information for a reason. Keep it that way.
Keep Your Heart Protected
You can get very attached to someone online, and the feelings are real no matter what others say. The attachment to a possible dominant and yourself could overpower your emotions and you'd be hooked. Keep a sense of reality in mind at all times because online play is a fantasy. Think with your head not your heart when it comes to connections with someone online. It's amazing how many people fall in love online and then get hurt because the other person shattered the fantasy.
This isn't to say that you can't fall in love with someone online in this day and age and then meet each other and be completely happy. Online dating wouldn't be such a big thing if it didn't work for some people. Chatting and virtual reality are just extensions of the dating scene for BDSM folks.
Keep in mind that if you intend to move to offline submission, that the people you are talking to may not. For some people it is all about the fantasy, they choose not to live away from the computer for one reason or another. They could explore their fantasies, escape from life's struggles and pretend to be someone else online.
If you desire to move offline, do not pretend to be someone else. Those that you friend could become confused at your real intentions and may flag you as a pretender and not someone serious with exploration and learning. Know what you want to give as your personal impression.
There are rules online in the BDSM subculture as there are in realtime groups and relationships. These rules are developed for each chat room or environment. Don't assume that the rules are the same in every location. There are places that will require submissives to beg entrance, use the S/slash speak or even refer to every dominant as Sir/Ma'am. Your imagination is a vital asset in these places as they tend to require you to pretend you are in a room, lounge, dungeon, bar or another location with all the toys you could pretend to have at your disposal.
Use Other Resources Also
Don't consider your online experiences as part of your overall experience. You may consider what you type and feel as real, but the realtime community will not. You can use this time to explore online websites, chat with people that are in the lifestyle offline as well and really get to know yourself. Online is a great place for that.
Ask for a mentor or helping hand when you are ready to really learn what it is to be submissive. The offline submissives will help you prepare to move offline and explore your new found lifestyle. It will be scary, but with someone there for you, it can be done. I've done it and I'm just fine now.