Chatroulette: The Internet’s Newest Wasteland
I had no idea what Chatroulette was until 11pm last night. I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same.
I noticed the word “Chatroulette” appear in my Twitter feed again and again, and thought it was some French film I hadn’t heard of. Perhaps a casino heist picture, or something where the once proud Chatroulette family must turn to sinister methods to keep their family estate. I wondered if it was on Netflix, and did a Google search. That’s when everything changed. Chatroulette, it turns out, is Chat Roulette, a new video chat service that randomly matches you up with other users like the spin of a wheel. If you want to chat with your partner, go for it; if not, hit a button and the site will drop someone else in their stead. The name is somewhat deceiving though, as you sometimes win at Roulette. In the world of Chatroulette, there’s nothing but losers.
In my two hours of video chatting, I encountered 23 naked penises, 5 naked breasts (how can you have an odd number of breasts? don’t ask), countless blank screens, and exactly one conversation. Honestly, I’m not sure of the penis total. There’s a lot of low lighting and suggestive nudity going on in the land of Chatroulette, and if I sensed things were going in a poor direction, I immediately clicked “next” and put a check in the wiener tally. What is the thrill of arbitrarily showing your private parts to people you’ll never meet? No idea, but I wasn’t hanging around long enough to ask.
Chatroulette is not an experience without potential, however. Interesting people do pop up on your monitor now and then, people who you would never be able to chat with otherwise. An elderly middle-eastern woman, a child hugging a stuffed koala bear, a guy who looked so much like Don Johnson that I’m at least 60% sure it was actually Don Johnson. But our time was too brief. Once you or your chat partner hits the “next” button, it’s on to a new pair and your moment is over. I wish there was a way to get them back, but that is not the Chatroulette way. Everyone is looking for something on CR, and if it’s not you then sadly the end is near.
Like most fledgling colonies, a system of bartering has popped up in Chatroulette. “D4T” it’s called, or for the laymen, “dick for tits.” Essentially, it’s a high-tech version of “show you mine if you show me yours”. It’s a fool’s gamble for the ladies however, as it seems most men are more than happy to show the D without even the slightest indication that a T will follow. I was unwilling to offer anything other than my thoroughly uninteresting F (that’s Face, you sickos), and I felt it was limiting my journalistic exploration. So I grew bold, and turned my video camera to something private and shocking. If this wouldn’t reveal some untold truths about the Chatroulette underworld, nothing would. I showed them…my cat.
And that is how I got my one conversation started.
User (teenager in a necktie): Nice cat.
Me: Thank you. Why so dressed up?
User (coyly): It’s a double Windsor knot. My mother said it makes me look regal.
Me: She’s right. Are you going to a party?
User: Yes! For Valentine’s Day. Would you like to come, Mr. Kitty?
Me: Sorry, I’m not allowed outside.
Me: Yeah. Indoor cat.
-30 second pause-
User: Can I see your tits?
You disconnected, press “Next” to find someone new!