- 2.19.10 - 3:00PM
- - by
- Drew Grant
The Lighter Side of Chatroulette
Yes yes, we all know the dangers of talking to strangers online, especially when our introduction to said strangers is on Chatroulette -- where you press play and immediately get video-conferenced to random people who will look at you for approximately 4 seconds before moving on to the next arbitrarily computer-chosen person.
This has led to tons of shenanigans, as one may imagine: high school kids using the program the same way my friends and I used AOL chat rooms in middle school (mainly just to act like jerks and screw around with people), people smoking weed on camera, and the infamous and all-too-common "guy wearing a towel on his lap and nothing else" (or even worse).
But can Chatroulette be used for good, as well as creepy? We steel our souls and jump into the fray in order to discover if there is anything redeemable about a program seemingly designed for anonymous weirdos.
Taking screen shots of weird and disturbing Chatroulette images seem to be a new-found crazy: Buzzfeed's done not one but two features on it, Geekosystem has its own "Best Of" list, and we ourselves are not immune to finding some wonky pictures on the site. But that's sort of the point: When Chatroulette had its Catroulette day, that was adorable, not creepy! I decided to see if I could recreate the experience with my own dog, Max. No matter who showed up on my video screen, the only thing they would see was my adorable puppy. Hypothesis: No one could get creepy or inappropriate when there was a small dog waving at them! Results: Correct!
But what about Chatroulette's initial function of bringing people (and not just animals) together? Does that ever actually happen? According to one user on Metafilter, just because the site is full of dick pics and drunk girls doesn't mean there weren't genuine connections to be made:
The majority of CR reviews seem to follow a similar vein: yes, it's totally creepy and full of weirdos (again, like those AOL chat rooms of our yesteryear), but taking the good with the bad, this would be the fun of the whole experience. Sort of like, I dunno, playing a game of chance. From New York Magazine:I spent too many hours on this site last night. It was pretty fascinating; most of the time the stream is of a bunch of men alone at their computer scanning the site. I started waving to see who would wave back at me, and then I had some pretty awesome conversations with people from all over: China, Macedonia, Romania, Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, lots of kids who were pregaming in college dormitories some where. There were people who were ripping bongs on screen, an ungodly amount of masturbation, cameras pointed at stuffed animals, cameras of someone holding a message. I had a great time.
Cliff Kuang of Fast Company called Chatroulette "...the place where all the freaks trawling 4chan--a bulletin board better known for inventing LOL Cats and Rick Rolling--have migrated their insanity." We say: As if that's a bad thing! At least now we can see what they look like.The paradox of face-to-face conversation across vast distances seems to do strange things to the human brain. I often found myself acting unlike myself: dancing without provocation with a roomful of Korean girls, greeting people with flurries of over-the-top marijuana slang even though I've never even smoked a joint.
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