My Journey Into The Bizarre World of Chatroulette

     Chatroulette is a surreal Internet experience that lets you webcam chat with complete strangers across the globe.  It was started in December by a 17-year-old Russian and is estimated to have 35,000 people online at any given time.  In a few short months, it has gained the attention of various media outlets who think they are breaking the story on the latest Internet craze and uncovering the newest social networking site.

     Actually, it's neither of those things.  Jon Stewart said that it would soon become a "repository of 5% curiosity seekers and 95% free floating dongs".  That it already is.

     The set-up is simple.  There is an area to chat, a screen for you, and a screen labeled "stranger" where the random person the site assigns you is viewable.  A next button allows you to move on to the next person.  There is no back button.  There is no history of what is said...except for the countless screen shots taken by the 5% curiosity seekers like the ones on "catroulette".

     Most of the time you're on Chatroulette, you don't have to do anything.  You sit back and watch as creepy male after creepy male "nexts" you once they see you're not a woman.  Whenever someone leaves you on the screen for more than a second, you know you've found someone to chat with.  The universal greeting seems to be "rocking the deuce" as opposed to waving.  I was both surprised and horrified at how many young people were using the site.  There should definitely be an 18 and up age limit on this thing.  I was also surprised by how many people from Chicago I met.

     Unsurprisingly, chatting with people on this site is socially unfulfilling.  You ask someone where they're from and what they're doing, but why?  You don't really care.  You'll never see them again.  The only reason you're talking is because after three minutes of seeing middle aged men and man parts flash on the screen, you've finally found someone else willing to actually chat, but you soon realize you don't really care.

     After chatting with someone for a while, it inevitability gets boring, so you're tempted to click next.  On several occasions, I reached for the button but felt a tinge of guilt.  Some kid who told my friends and me that he was tripping out on pain killers because he had surgery the next day played the trumpet for us...and wouldn't stop.  We needed to next him because we had more interesting people to meet, but it would be so rude to leave in the middle of his performance.  I then realized that you can't apply the same social standards that you use real life to this fabricated online world.  Is it rude to leave someone while they're playing their trumpet for you in real life?  Yes.  Is it rude when it's with someone you "met" only a minute before and whose whole story about pain killers could be some joke he made up so bloggers and reporters who chatted with him would write about him?  No.

     Eventually my friends and I clicked next and continued on our search for the most ridiculous people we could find.  We saw some kid pick his nose uncontrollably, a kid in a creepy mask, several groups of fellow college students having a drunken time in front on the camera, and a pair of Chinese men who took two minutes too long to type simple statements.  We actually saw them twice.

     I think that after my experience on Chatroulette I'm supposed to come to some conclusion about the meaning, struggle, and promise of my generation or have some epiphany on the human condition in the Internet age.  Unfortunately, I haven't.  Chatroulette is an Internet oddity that we will look back on and laugh at.  Its buzz as "the next big" thing will quickly fade.  It has no future as a social network, because all socializing that takes place is phony (although one of my friends has picked up two Facebook friends from it, one in Spain and two in Canada).  Its clogged with online sex addicts, but it won't even be able support that for very long.  The man-woman ratio is far too tilted for these anonymous perverts to get much satisfaction, and they'll soon find something else to occupy their time.

     Thanks for the fun times time Chatroulette.  Too bad we didn't last as long as MySpace and I did.  We might bump into each other again if anyone gets some clips of people reacting to weird or bizarre things on you and posts them on YouTube, but even then, don't say hi.  And stay far away from my sisters.


Nick said...

honestly i think there are much better things for people to be doing than spending their social life in front of a screen. and i'm not saying that about you, haha. the people on there should go out and have real relationships.

HesstonsHullabaloo said...

This is hilarious! Thanks for giving me something to do next time I'm really bored. Bahahhaha. I really hope I meet a guy who can play the trumpet for me. I'd probably skip nose picking boy though.

Chatroulette said...

I liked this french one : http//

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