Chatroulette promotes talking to strangers

Katie Armstrong

Chatroulette is the latest fad in Internet communication trends on campus. It is a Web site so new that blogs are still debating its worth, yet it is a concept so out of the ordinary that one wonders just how much further virtual communication can go. 

Created by 17-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy of Moscow, Chatroulette connects a user via webcam with an incessant flow of completely random people from the world over. As soon as the user clicks “Play” on the Web site’s homepage, the user’s webcam is activated, and another human being appears in the box entitled “Partner.” The participants can chat with each other by text or voice, or click “Next” to meet a new person. 

Resident Assistant James Klein said that some of his residents in Delurey Hall spend three or more hours a night on Chatroulette.

 “I’ll walk by a resident’s room, and the person will be sitting there cycling through other users by clicking ‘Next’ over and over,” Klein said. “I’ll come back a few hours later, and they’re still sitting there either chatting via webcam or just sifting through more users.”

Evoking its name, Chatroulette is one visual mind game after another. Users have no control over choosing who they meet and what other participants choose to show on their webcams. 

Students interviewed said that when playing, they were sometimes paired with users who shared similar interests. During other sessions, though, they met users whose idea of video chatting involved either disconnecting immediately or performing uncensored obscenities in bizarre costumes.

“I heard about it from a friend who reported some interesting and, well, lively webcam interactions,” sophomore Justin Cooper said. “I decided to give it a try because, in the words of my friend, it’s ‘too weird for words.’ So I figured, why not?”

Cooper said his experiences and conversations on Chatroulette were neither exhilarating nor productive –– a far cry from popular stories citing indecent and outrageous behavior from the face in the “Partner” box. 

Cooper did not view the new trend as a chaotic device that has driven virtual communication over the edge of sanity. 

“Despite my experience, I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “It’s another way to meet new people. You could argue that it’s better to meet people in real life, but meeting somebody on a totally different continent at 2 a.m. is pretty cool. So, I would say that I don’t think that this communication has gone too far.”

Sophomore Jennifer Crisp, however, expressed unease about participating in Chatroulette, since she found its communicative aspect unrealistic and unappealing.

“I tried it out only because I’d heard so much hype about it,” Crisp said. “I ended up video-chatting with some guy from Toulouse for about ten minutes, and I thought it was fun to practice speaking French. But I didn’t feel comfortable with the whole idea of talking that way with a total stranger. It felt like I was talking with someone just for the thrill of using Chatroulette, not for wanting to carry on a coherent conversation with another person.”