8) A Woman In China
In a dimly lit room I meet a Chinese girl, around 20 with long straight hair and thick black glasses. The camera is uncomfortably close to her face. Though she speaks a little bit of English we have difficulties communicating. I find out her name is ShanShan. ShanShan asks me if I do e-mail. I reply that I do indeed do e-mail. She then asks me if we can do friends. I try to change the subject because I don’t know the full implications of giving out my e-mail address to people in China on Chatroulette.
ShanShan tells me she likes the USA, which makes me happy. In fact, I have never met someone on Chatroulette in a foreign country who said they did not like the USA. Maybe Obama really HAS changed everything. We make a little more small talk. She says that she is excited to talk to a foreigner. I try to wrap things up before she asks for my e-mail again. I don’t know why she’s so eager to e-mail when we can barely hold a conversation face to face. It is my hope that someday ShanShan can find a nice foreigner to do e-mail with.
9) A House of Young People in Australia
I end up talking to a guy who looks about 20 years old; he is Australian and is practically bouncing up and down. It’s daytime for him and there seems to be about seven people walking around his house. I can hear him, but he types because there is too much commotion for him to hear me.
The guy seems to be in a pretty good mood. He explains some of the people in the background are going to a birthday party while others are going to a dinner party but everybody is “getting boozed.” The girls are wearing dresses and he points the webcam at one’s cleavage. She doesn’t seem to mind. I ask him about how he likes Chatroulette and he says, “I usually just sit here with the cam off and perve on randoms,” but I don’t really know what that means. We talk for a little bit more and at one point he tries to put the camera up a girl’s dress. In this case, she does seem to mind. Everything happens so fast that all I see is a blur. He tells me he is going to move on because, “We’re going to try to find some random weirdos that are probably naked.” On Chatroulette, that is considered setting yourself up for success.
10) A guy with an ’80s mullet wig and glasses
After being NEXTed many more times, I end up chatting with a guy in a wig. I don’t know why he wore a wig but costumes are actually quite popular on Chatroulette. Between all the costumes, flashing and random debauchery, Chatroulette is not unlike one big virtual Mardi Gras party—without all the beads and $2 hurricanes.
My conversation with Wig Guy is pretty mundane and he seems eager to get rid of me. I wind up engaging him in a minute’s worth of conversation and he tells me he’s going to move on. Before we say goodbye, he pulls out a professional-looking still camera. Wig Guy asks me if he can take a picture of me. I think this is odd because, from what I can tell, Wig Guy doesn’t really like me. I tell him that it’s OK and he snaps a picture of me on the screen. Wig Guy says he needs to go now, but before we say goodbye I ask him why he took my picture. Wig Guy says he is collecting pictures of people on Chatroulette so he can have an album of complete strangers. Though this is unusual, I find it to be a really interesting idea. I ask him if most people let him take the picture and Wig Guy tells me that actually most people get pretty pissed off because they don’t want to be filmed.
Though ironic (since they’re ON a webcam), this contradiction does make sense. If Chatroulette really is a release for people, a place where you can do anything you want without repercussions, Wig Guy’s camera destroys that fantasy. How can you do and say whatever you want to people when Wig Guy is putting it all down in his scrap book?
I think the name Chatroulette is a misnomer because this “game” is nothing like roulette. If anything, this is more like a slot machine—a highly addictive one-armed bandit that keeps you hoping the next spin will be a beautiful woman, an interesting guy or maybe a four-act play. But the odds dictate that you’re far more likely to see a Q-tip inserted into a penis.
Another way of looking at it is this: Chatroulette is pretty much a worldwide game of virtual Go-Fish. When you start Chatroulette, you pick up your first card. If you like what you see, you keep it for as long as the other person wants to keep you. If not, you and the other person are both thrown into the gigantic discard pile of people who were rejected. Some say there are only weirdoes and perverts on Chatroulette, but that’s hard to prove. It might be that all the good people and naked girls are out there, but nobody is throwing them back.
The site is both a window out to the rest of the world and a mirror back into our own. Once you start, you are forced to decide what to show the cyber world when the webcam light goes on. Do you remain the real you? Is it an outlet for your frustration? Do you create an alternate fantastic identity? Or do you take off your clothes and begin masturbating like there’s no tomorrow? Maybe one day I’ll see you and we’ll both find out.
Wantagh’s Rob Cesternino was a cast member of Survivor: The Amazon, where he made it to the final three before being voted off. He returned to Survivor: All Stars, where he was voted off in episode 4. Rob wrote a column for the Long Island Press between 2003 and 2004. He currently works as a new media writer and producer. His Web site, which includes his blog and podcasts, is robcesternino.tumblr.com.
5 Things You Need to Know About Chatroulette
By Heather Harrington
1. Comedy Triumphs Creepiness
Ever since we were little kids, we’ve been taught to be wary of who we talk to. Chatroulette single-handedly takes the whole “stranger-danger” concept and throws it right out the window. Instead of shying away from those we don’t know, we’re now seeking out random people to talk to from around the world. Who cares about how creepy these people may be when you just spoke to someone from China!
2. On to the NEXT One
However fun the site may seem, the perv factor is still there. So, if your partner has their screen pointed downward and there isn’t a sufficient amount of light on their side, hit NEXT immediately. That is something you do not want to be a part of (unless you do, in which case, who’s the perv now?).
3. HormonalBoy Seeking LonelyGirl
Speaking of perverts, on Chatroulette, half the time you’ll get a sign asking for female nudity rather than an actual person. Guys: The Web is a big place, but not so big that you’re going to encounter a girl that desperate, so you can go ahead and put the sign down.
4. Group Activity
What better way to spend your Friday night than to get a group of people together to talk with other groups of random people? Hopefully you can get the frat guys playing beer pong in their dorm room, ’cause then it’s really a party.
5. Be Wary of What You Type
Considering all the crazy stuff going down on Chatroulette, you’d think it’d be nearly impossible to get blocked, but you’d be surprised. It doesn’t matter that the guy you just NEXTed was wearing a full-body catsuit, but it does matter what you choose to type in the text boxes. The use of Internet lingo, such as the term “a/s/l” (the term favored by AOL chat room users of the ’90s, meaning “age/sex/location”), could get you blocked for up to 10 minutes. You can say whatever you want over the actual video though. Go figure.