How has the online bingo community developed so quickly? For decades, the local bingo hall was a meeting place for thousands of women and for many, it was the highlight of the week. A chance to get out of the house, to gossip, to mingle, and to enjoy the thrill of marking off the numbers in a safe environment.
Of course, many players went there to win, but countless friendships were forged in those massive buildings – a community brought together by the love of socialising, and the excitement of the world's favourite numbers game.
But then several things changed. The smoking ban came along, along with higher taxes on alcohol. Then came the Credit Crunch, meaning less and less players frequenting their favourite venues.
Many bingo halls are struggling to stay open, as players opt to stay in and play bingo online instead. But the online bingo revolution has meant the game has increased dramatically in popularity and it now attracts a huge swathe of younger players, and players from both sexes as well.
The game is readily accessible on laptops and mobile phones, meaning we can now play mobile bingo wherever and whenever we want.
And guess what? Online chat rooms have replaced the bingo hall, and these welcoming places are a great way to make new friends, and also to enjoy chat games, where free bonuses can be won.
Every single bingo site has a chat room, and it's usually presided over by a chat moderator. The chat moderator meets and greets you, and introduces you to the games and roomies. If you're new to a chat room, say hello to new players, and get involved in the banter.
Usually the chat window will be fairly prominent in the bingo software, meaning you can chat and natter away, as the software automatically marks the balls off for you.
By joining the conversation, you can meet players from all around the world. It's an instant circle of friends, and everybody is happy to see you. The chat can move fast, and it's often colour-coded for easy reading. You can even add abbreviations like LOL and smiley faces, thanks to handy shortcut keys.
Everybody in the bingo community is united by one thing – the love of the game. You can share the exploits of other players' wins and losses, and if you're a good sport, watching a friend win a jackpot can be almost as exciting as winning yourself.
There's a knack to extending chat room friendships into the real world, and with a little perseverance, and know-how, it can become an easy habit to slip into.
Often, friendships can kindle in a chat room, and then it naturally progresses onto Facebook. From there, it's into the real world – if you enjoy the company of a roomie online, ask if you can meet for coffee, or even a cheeky glass of wine.
And don't limit these social occasions to places within your geographical area – I personally have made bingo friends across the country, and I now have like-minded buddies in many areas across the United Kingdom. Whenever I'm travelling, I always call into my favourite chat rooms, and ask who lives nearby – it's amazing how keen people are to meet up in the real world. And of course, you'll have lots to gossip about. Chat moderators in particular form a large part of the conversation.
So, if you're ready to be part of the next big thing, and to make new friends the easy way, get online and join a friendly bingo community. A lovely new bosom buddy could be mere keystrokes away.