(Part one in a series)
Monday, I went into Chatroulette (visit at your own risk) for the first time. In doing so, I expected many things. Namely, depravity, insanity, and a whole lot of on-screen penis. Having read about the site—which connects you to any other user on the site at random, and allows you to either chat or move on to another person—and seen a bit about it on Comedy Central's Tosh.0, the stage was set for what I expected to be a modern day Heart of Darkness. I assumed it would be like Conrad's Africa or Bourdain's Cambodia—a lawless place where the depraved run free. Like 4chan, but with video.
When one first connects to Chatroulette, they are given a moment to set everything up before the adventure begins.
“Click 'Play' to start the game,” the menu says, taunting the user previously informed of the horrors to be found within.
After setting everything up, hit “Play,” and was greeted by, horror of horrors...
...an empty chair. It was a nice chair—blue, modern, comfy-looking—but empty. In my first attempt to use this supposed great new way of connecting people the world over, I was left video-chatting with bored furniture. Great way to start, I'd say. I entered a simple “Hello, empty chair” into the chatbox, and was on my way. Suddenly, though, the owner of the chair appeared, and disconnected. I had survived my first encounter with Omegle's diseased sister.
From there, I became less scared, and a little more adventurous. I briefly chatted with a couple people, but wasn't really greeted by any of the supposed dangers of Chatroulette—like dicks. The lack of the elements of Chatroulette that have mythologized the site as a true Internet Heart of Darkness left me, oddly, somewhat disappointed. I didn't want to see the terrors I had heard about, but still felt that some essential part of the site was missing. The more fun parts, the weird signs, strange people dancing, and all the rest were absent along with the depravity.
Perhaps, as I justified this to myself, it was because I logged on in the middle of the day, meaning only college kids and bored people halfway across the world were on. I eventually logged off with the knowledge that I would get back on later, when the strange and perverted would be off of work.
-To Be Continued-
-Tommy Morgan Jr.