Despite the number of penises and mean people, Chatroulette continues to be an intriguing and amusing experience. As a social scientist, it just leaves me wanting more. Because of its very nature, it would be difficult to study, but part of me feels like if I keep exploring it, I’ll be able to draw some sort of conclusions about it. Obviously, my sample size is indeterminable and my examiner bias is severe, but I still feel like I can make some observations about my experiences so far.
Without a doubt, the anonymous nature of Chatroulette has a profound impact on how people interact with it. Even though faces are much less anonymous than simple screennames like in the chat rooms of yore, there is still a sense of freedom and liberation that makes Chatroulette interactions quite different than how people interact in person. It’s sort of like “no strings attached” interactions with people. If people embarrass themselves, it doesn’t matter, because they just hit Next! and all trace of them is gone. This allows people the freedom to talk more openly about sex and sexual behavior more than you’d usually expect, and while not everyone is masturbating on cam, it seems that people’s motivations for meeting others on Chatroulette are driven to at least some extent by their sex drive and attractions.
One question that will plague curious social scientists like me is: “What motivates a Next!?” More often than not, the Next! happens instantaneously, a split-second superficial judgment. What assumptions are made from that first glimpse? What are people’s expectations and who do they really want to meet? At first, it might be easy to take it all personally, but you soon realize it’s just the nature of the beast. And before you know it, that whole “give each person a chance” thing just isn’t working for you. And soon, you have to start examining your own motivations, because you are Next!ing people just as quickly. If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I had made judgments based on age, race, gender, and looks, among other things. So what is it that I would prefer to find? What are my motivations at any given moment during my spin on Chatroulette? I’m not sure I even know, which I think makes Chatroulette an interesting opportunity for not only sociological research but self-reflection as well.
I have observed that there seem to be more men on Chatroulette than women, and that’s even without counting all the men masturbating. As a young, single gay man, I’ll admit that my ego is best pacified by meeting a good-looking guy who enjoys talking to me and this seems to motivate a lot of my Chatroulette choices. And the man-meets-man interactions are an interesting phenomenon. A lot of men are looking for women, so many will Next! me right away, or some will stop to chat for a second just to opine that they haven’t seen enough of the ladies. On the occasion that a guy will stop to have a real conversation, I’ve even begun to assume that they are more than likely gay. Truly, I have met some cute guys who also find me cute and we have an enjoyable little flirtation that totally makes up for all the other garbage on there. On the occasions that I have told guys that they’re cute only to learn that they are straight, I applaud them for being comfortable enough with themselves to take a compliment from a gay guy without just freaking out and hitting Next!. In my opinion, credit is due when credit is deserved.
There are definitely some straight men looking for locker room talk. I play along sometimes, but I generally don’t try too hard to hide the fact that I don’t like the same things they do. It’s amusing to see those reactions. Often, upon the revelation that they are not talking to a fellow straight guy, they Next! right away. Sometimes they’re like, “Oh, that’s cool, that’s cool,” and play it off, but it’s clear then that they are done talking to me because I can’t relate to their love of breasts and vaginas. On several occasions there was confusion and denial; one guy said, “Wait, it almost sounds like you just said you were GAY.” Not almost, buddy; I did!
I have to share this one other little tidbit, because it just makes me laugh so much. Among the many Chatrouletters intent on just being mean (mostly teenage and college-age guys), there is a significant contingent who believe that identifying a person as “gay” is the meanest thing they can do. Immediately calling a guy a “faggot” must have gotten old, because on my last spin, they tried a different tactic. As soon as I’d appear, they’d insistently ask, “You suck dick?” On the several occasions that this happened, I chose to respond by saying, “Sure, when I feel like it.” Their reactions to this are hilarious. It’s a total backfire of their plan to humiliate me, and it’s clear they have no additional retort. After a few seconds of confusion, they usually just Next! and I move on feeling quite amused.
In education, we learn that a little positive feedback goes a long way, and that’s definitely true on Chatroulette. It only takes one person making you smile to make up for a lot of idiots being dumb. One person just had the words “I love you!” up where their cam should be. It was precious. There are plenty of folks out there just trolling for smiles, and they make it all worth it. That’s what will keep me going back and is surely a notable draw to the bizarre social experiment that is Chatroulette.
Here are some highlights from my latest spin! Click to embiggen each! (Word of advice to those of you thinking about taking screenshots of your experiences: Make sure you look back up at the cam when you’re hitting the Print Screen button… it makes for a much better picture.)
1) Even though one of my very good college friends is an amazingly talented magician, I still never get tired of sleight-of-hand tricks, and that’s exactly what this chatter was offering:
2) Do they even have telephones in Hell? Hopefully for this individual they have webcams in Heaven; he was apparently not blessed with a functioning one on Earth.
3) This guy was one of those super-cute straight guys who was just a delight to chat with. He was Canadian, so of course he was awesome. In case you’re curious, I was chewing when I first appeared on cam.
4) Check this guy out:
He went on to pour lighter fluid all over his hands out of a Bic lighter, explaining that he would bust ninjas up with hands of fire. That’s when I hit Next!
I don’t think I’m done playing with Chatroulette, so if I have more funny experiences, I’ll share them here!