Chatroulette: Entertaining or disturbing?

Occasionally you can find interesting things on Chatroulette. Courtesy of Google Image.

Occasionally you can find interesting things on Chatroulette. Courtesy of Google Image.

There is a hot new website that “all the cool kids” are using. It connects random people for a brief video, audio or instant message chat. This international collection of users is able to cross cultural and national barriers to engage in mutually enlightening, deeply personal communication that people cannot usually achieve with people they know.

Yeah, right. Chatroulette is a website that people use for mindless entertainment and/or sexual gratification. It was started by a Russian high school student, Andrey Ternovskiy, who still runs the company out of his childhood bedroom. During two 10-minute sessions, I saw many groups of people who appeared to be under the influence of some mind altering substance or another, a few girls who seemed to be taking directions from people off-screen, two foreigners (from Italy and Norway,) and a cat. While these were mildly entertaining, if a little repetitive, the vast majority of users I encountered seemed to be males who were using alone and deriving sexual gratification from showing their genitalia to anonymous strangers.

Well, not all of them showed their genitalia, but many of them either “nexted” me as soon as the video started, or opened with the cryptic message “tits or GTFO” before then nexting me. “Nexting” refers to the action of clicking the Next button, ending the current chat and initiating a new one. In the world of Chatroulette, part of the game is to next before you get nexted.

Often the most entertaining thing you can hope for during a Chatroulette round is finding a man pretending to be Lady Gaga, a puppet show, or someone dressed as an alien.  Overall, most users are rarely that creative.

This website has been so successful as to have been lampooned by such television shows as “The Daily Show” and “South Park,” and has been championed as the next “Facebook.” While I don’t think this will be true, it will certainly provoke questions as to what is acceptable online, and offer ways for people to express themselves to new audiences. By “expressing themselves”, everyone knows I mean “self-pleasuring”, and by “new audience”, I mean “horrified 15-year-olds”, right?

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