A friend sent me a link to the 24 Best Chat Roulette Screenshots and it has forced me to once again stare into the hour-eating abyss that is Chat Roulette. I have been asked, and asked myself, what the point is. And that question makes sense, considering a decent portion of the strangers any spin of the chamber lands on tend to be weird, possibly disrobed dudes. Excessive scumbags and possible future Buffalo Bill’s aside, I do understand why it never really gets old.
At first I thought it was like a remote control for the internet, each uncertain click offering the chance at discovered entertainment, even though the whole time it’s inside the clicking and the uncertainty, and not what’s on the screen, that the entertainment lies. But, because it’s a stranger and not programming on the other side of each successive click, the whole remote control analogy is a little off, and I think a story from a while back offers a better one.
A few years ago I was at a bar with a group of work friends. The conversation had run out, discussions of status meetings and who was maybe hooking up with who all discussed, when someone suggested we play text message roulette. The idea was that each person pass their phone to the right and their table-neighbor could pick anyone they wanted to text anything they wanted, knowing full well that the forces of karma say if they did something effed up, it would balance out on their own phone right then and there. And that’s what I think is so addictive about Chat Roulette. It’s not just the chance at some interesting encounter with a stranger, it’s a chance at accruing good karma quicker than experience points in Call of Duty*.
Chat Roulette is a blank slate, a clean sheet, an altruistic concept that believes we can use today’s technology to make connections around the world and start friendships with strangers. What people do with it, good or bad, becomes a living power-point about human nature, and not only do we enjoy a voyeurs look into another life, but we get a chance to set ourselves firmly on one side of the line, we get the chance to separate ourselves from all the weirdos of the world just by wearing pants and saying ‘hi’.
*I know this is a kinda nerdy reference but Call of Duty is awesome, and awesomeness outweighs nerdiness on the scales of life according to Nietzsche.