Anonymous Social Networking With Chatroulette
What is the strange appeal of Chatroulette?
Chatroulette, a website founded by 17yearold Russian, Andrey Ternovskiy, has inspired quite a bit of curiosity, disdain and applause from the media lately. On his part, Ternovskiy created the site with the simple purpose of making “something different from what currently exists on the internet, and to make something that isn’t boring”. According to many of Chatroulette’s users, he succeeded.
If you haven’t already experienced it yourself, Chatroulette is a site that randomly connects users through one-on-one videochat with strangers around the world. Wired proposes that its popularity is due to a few characteristics that differentiate it from many of the other major social networking properties currently out there:
- Chatroulette provides the opportunity to fly your freak flag online while still, for the most part, remaining anonymous. Just click Next when you’re done entertaining (or, gaping at someone else’s antics)
- Unsupervised shock value. As a throwback to the days of unpoliced internet behavior, Chatroulette’s real time and unrecorded activity means your employer is unlikely to find your footprint on Chatroulette – which can’t be said of your tagged karaoke photos on Facebook, nor of your Twitter postings from SXSW when you’re out “sick”.
- The ability to talk to all kinds of people from everywhere in the world – and not just those within your social or related professional network. Men dressed up as Dr. Seuss characters, German professors, and angst-ridden teens looking for relationship advice.
Chatroulette’s future is unknown – the amount of lewd behavior rivals those users that are sincerely curious to meet others from different countries and backgrounds, and may soon invite the legal watchdogs and send any potential advertisers (and revenue drivers) running.
That said, there might be something to learn from the reaction to Chatroulette. The site’s popularity might be a call to social networks to continually evolve, or risk boring its users. This writer, for one, has noticed a significant decrease in the frequency with which many of my Facebook contacts update their status, add their photos, or comment on others Walls’. Facebook exhaustion, or boredom, perhaps? It also speaks to a desire, for some at least, for more digital free spiritedness – the kind that isn’t necessarily recorded and so easily held against you (by employers or social judgement).