It’s a Friday night. I’m sitting on my couch. I’ve picked out a PG13 pajama tank top to wear. I’m hoping to discourage the type of sexual advances I’ve heard of from this site; however, I’m well aware that it’s in vain. The tank top has got thick white granny straps and my camera is angled so that it doesn’t dip below my collarbone.
“> Connected, feel free to talk now”
I’ve been “Nexted” about 10 times before someone will talk to me.
As I expected, someone has called me nigger. Next. There’s a picture of a sticky post with the word “Pervert” written on it. Next. There are three giggling blondes in what looks like a dorm room. The webcam they’re using is aimed at their breasts. Tonight they plan on making a cyber fantasy come true. Next. “Are you a Sixer’s fan, or a Lakers’ fan?” They ask. The kids look like they’re of Asian descent. Their bedroom is brightly lit. Two girls lounge on a bed. A younger-looking boy who I presume to be someone’s brother is sitting in front of the webcam with a Lakers hat on. (Neither of those teams mean much to me personally.) For kicks, I type “76ers.” They’ve come completely undone by my audacity. “Fuck you Bitch!” Next.
A man picks up his cat and shakes it vigorously into the camera. “Reuben says hi,” he says. Next. Two girls next me instantly. A few times, the webcam doesn’t register a picture before the “Stranger” has moved on.
For the most part, this is how you play Chatroulette a new video chat site. There’s a chat screen that says “You” and “Stranger.” To the left are two video spots. “You” appear on the bottom and the “Stranger” on top. In addition there’s a sound option. If your stranger is unappealing to you, no need for decorum, you’re freed from perfunctory conversation, just hit “Next.” The site was created by a 17-year-old named Andrey Ternovskiy from Russia. Like Facebook and Twitter, the approach is simplistic and straightforward. To begin, click “Play.” As a player you give Chatroulette access to your webcam. The site tells you it’s “Looking for a stranger.”
And strangers you will find.
I’ve been on the site for about 20 minutes before I get my first masturbator. He’s lying on his side, typing with one hand. The camera is facing his crotch. “Kinda hard to type with one hand,” I say. Next. There’s a girl with a University of M sweat shirt on. I can’t tell if it’s Massachusetts or Michigan. She’s so appalled by me she makes the face of a child being forced to eat her vegetables. Next.
Chatroulette can be a challenge to those with low self-esteem.
Stranger: quieres jugar conmigo por webcam (do you want to play with me by webcam?)
You: no no quiero (no, no I don’t)
30 minutes and a bunch of nexting later:
Stranger: hey you are cute
You: how are you?
Stranger: get naked
You: not never
Stranger: i could do better
Assimilation is starting to set in. I’m beginning to conform to the worst of my cyber-environment. “I’ve seen bigger!” I type. Next. I feel victorious, then kind of dumb. My patience for this game is wearing thin.
But then I meet this guy from Poland. We talk for about 35 minutes. He’s watching the hockey game between Canada and the US. He appears surprised that I’m not watching it as well. He’s also 19. Chatroulette’s usage demographic is mostly 18-24, white and male.
It’s 4:30am in Poland. He has some type of graphic covering his face. Once he deciphers my level of normalcy he removes it. I correct his English while we talk. “Thank you very much i need it becouse in this free summer time i want to go for job to the Ireland,” he says. My Polish friend doesn’t like Italians. “Why?” I ask. “i think they are boring becouse they eat only pasta and pizza,” he says. He’s really into emoticons and uses them constantly.
Talk of Italy and Ireland remind me of how close the European borders are. A three-hour trip in New York just takes me to more of New York. In Europe a three-hour trip can mean an entirely new country, culture and language. I’m reminded of one summer I spent in Europe on a bike tour. Traveling along the Rhine, I had breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Lichtenstein and dinner in Germany.
We talk a little more. He wants to know where I’m from. He tells me I look like Niobe from The Matrix. He couldn’t be more wrong, but I appreciate the sentiment.
You: when you said african. are you asking me where i am from?
You: are you asking me where my family was born?
You: it’s ok if you were.
Stranger: i love african culture…
Stranger: and food
You: my family is from Haiti
Stranger: but i dont like nigerian?
You: why not Nigerian?
Stranger: Haiti? oh my god…
You: everybody is in the US now….my family is ok.
Stranger: i meet few od them in ireland…they werent nice ..
You: that does not mean they’re all not nice
There’s been an influx of Nigerian immigrants into Ireland in recent years and a lot of anti-immigration sentiment because of it; I think this is what’s informed his opinions.
Stranger: haiti beutiul place
You: thank you
Stranger: yeah but my uncle told me that all of african people doesnt like them
Stranger: this is the same
Stranger: situation in our country
You: nobody in your country likes Nigerians?
Stranger: wait xD
Stranger: im looking for word
Stranger: the same situation in our country, we dont like gypys…
You: ohhh….how come?
Stranger: i dont know why…just
Stranger: maybe from the history
Stranger: gypsys and jews…
All in all the night felt like I’d attended an International house party in my pajamas. It was kind of fun. Like Technotica says, “that some choose to use it as a low-fi version of “The Circuit” — the instant sex partner search in the movie “Logan’s Run” — just means this is the Internet.” It’s not so different from a night out in New York sans the parade of penises of course (sometimes).
Play at your own risk.