Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ChatRoulette Social Experiment

In the internet's ever growing number of creepy offerings, the latest is the new site ChatRoulette, a totally anonymous way to chat face-to-face with total strangers. It is basically the evolved form of Omegle, which would throw you into an anonymous chats with said total strangers. Now with CR's addition of video- the potential for creepiness is raised exponentially. I used Omegle a few times when it was new and had an interesting discussion with someone claiming to be in France. We talked about all manner of things and I started to form a bond with them... until suddenly they disconnected in mid-sentence. Whether by accident or on purpose is unknown, but I felt a tinge of sadness as they were cast back into the emptiness of cyberspace, taking the mystery with them. A real illustration on the nebulous nature of our internet age, no?

I learned about ChatRoulette today in an article on my favorite blog Gawker (who invited me to an art opening party two weeks ago at their headquarters, thanks again!) It posted screenshots of the people they encountered during a quick jaunt through the site to form a collage of what they aptly describe as an Alexander Payne-esque reminder of the tedium of life. Ahh yes, just like Gawker's Richard Lawson to pull such a poignant line from this glorified trolling outlet. This inspired me to make one too. I was typically 'nexted' with great speed by my newfound companions for having my camera off, giving just enough time to grab a screen shot of the glimpse into internet mundanity with which each room greeted me. Like Gawker, what I found was an interesting cross-section of people all looking genuinely bored, a fascinating social experiment and commentary on the state of today's internet world. Unlike Gawker, I also ran into not one but 3.5 separate instances of a guy jerking off into the camera in that brief time, so viewer discretion is advised to all you budding social psychologists. My collage of the Lonely Faces of Five Minutes on Chat Roulette (click to enlarge, of course):