ChatRoulette: Depraved Dating Game of the Future
Now imagine that instead of continuing to avoid eye contact, you can just push a button and make him disappear. You push the button and poof! He is replaced with someone else. If the someone else happens to be an obnoxious, giggly girl who’s probably too young to be in the imaginary bar to begin with, click again. And again. Eventually someone you want to talk to will appear.
This is what I imagined when I first heard someone describe Chatroulette, the new video chat site invented by a Russian teenager, and the Internet's latest craze. What a brilliant idea: random, rapid-fire strangers, a way to talk to tons of people around the world, and the easiest way yet to escape a conversation. It seemed like the logical conclusion of social networking sites—how many of your Facebook friends are really your friends? Chatroulette skips the pretense of having a real relationship and goes straight through the voyeuristic window into the strange, disturbing private lives of strangers.
I decided to try it out, to see if this really could revolutionize the way we socialize. However, it seems that when in the safety of their own homes, people behave even less like civilized human beings than usual. It became a race between me and my fellow chatters to see who could click the “next” button faster when I saw that they were naked and they saw that I was not. Believe it or not, those drunk guys in the bar are comparatively well-behaved.
This could have been a great way to connect to the world. I imagined it breaking down social barriers, literally putting people of every culture right into each other's living rooms, exponentially speeding up the globalization of culture. But as buzzfeed.com put it, it’s “quickly becoming the go-to site if you want to chat with the most socially depraved people you will ever interact with.” In some sense Chatroulette paralleled New York City in its array of unimaginable characters—a guy in a panda suit playing ukulele brought to mind some of the best subway performers—but most people I encountered were just men masturbating, which, granted, can also be found on the subway, though much less often.