ChatRoulette: a Hazmat suit and a few too many naked guys
By Lauren Crothers
I’ve never been much of a gambler, but when I heard about ChatRoulette I felt compelled to throw in my chips and see what all the fuss was about. I only wish I’d worn a Hazmat suit before doing so. Launched in November, ChatRoulette, the brainchild of 17-year-old Russian Andrey Ternovskiy, was born from a relatively innocent place — a way for Ternovskiy and his friends to interact online in a chatroom-like scenario but through the medium of webcam.
But, but. It didn’t take long for the pustules inhabiting the Internet’s underbelly to scrape themselves off the floor, log in, switch on and … undress. And excite themselves for the displeasure of those, like me, who happen to click ‘next’ and find themselves confronted with such a sight. There is worse to be seen, the details of which I will not go into here, but I will try and recount my half hour experience (for the purpose of writing this very blog post).
The idea is this: you set up your webcam, with a choice to receive and/or send audio. Depending on which settings you go with, you can message or actually chat to the random stranger of your choosing.
There was a lot of clicking ‘next’ both on my part and that of the strangers I was connected with, though it appears there are far more men than women on the site and, as a result, females can expect entertaining feedback in the form of a look of relief, raised eyebrows, a smile and “thank god, you’re a chick … there’s so many dudes – clothed and naked – here.”
This is not a dating site, though there will be those who try to use it as such. It was never intended as a vehicle for voyeurism either, even though parts of its content may belie such a fact. What it is, is a social networking phenomenon. It began with no advertising and little fanfare and today, with only four simple ads at the bottom of the main page, its user base grows by the thousands daily.
Scrolling through a slice of the Internet’s vast demographic I encountered many partying teens basking in the cold glow of their screens, a few suggestive looking girls, many perverted men, one guy enjoying a bong, a few people in masks, bedroom walls, a pet cat and several placards imploring females to reveal their chests – for Haiti, of course. ‘Jesus approves!!’ said one.
After much clicking of the F9 key, I got chatting briefly to an artist from North Carolina who spent the last four years hopping from freight train to freight train. I then happened upon a guy in Sydney. We talked about bands we liked, spiders we didn’t. He’s going to Berlin next year, I told him he’d love it. He asked me what I thought of the site (we were both, as it turns out, scarred by the amount of self indulgent nudity). He told me he’d read about the site and figured he would see what the fuss was about (but made sure to let me know he’d be venturing out shortly to meet real, flesh and blood humans).
And really, the novelty of this site aside, he was absolutely right. By all means, dabble in what ChatRoulette has to offer (even though some of it might momentarily blind you). But keep in mind there’s a living, breathing, loud, wonderful world out there beyond your screen. And it has more to offer you than a few spins around this wheel ever could.
Lauren Crothers is a Star copy editor with one eye behind a lens. firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: The Star's Nicole Baute tries ChatRoulette and meets the (fake) Jonas Brothers.