Over the weekend, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who’s love of social sites makes me look like an absolute hermit. “Have you tried Chatroulette.com yet?” she asked. “You wouldn’t believe the things people do on it! It’s so… weird!” Suffering from a nasty cold, the promise of ‘weird’ didn’t sound worth moving off of the sofa to see, so I promptly forgot all about it.
Oh, I’ve heard of Chatroulette in a vague sort of way before: through headlines in my RSS feeds, mostly, and I seem to recall some mention on cable’s gaming channel at some point. But, as someone who despises chat rooms, I’ve pretty much ignored it.
My friend called again today. “No, seriously. You’ve got to check this site out, if only to find material you can write about.” And, since I’d spent two hours staring at a blank computer screen unable to come up with one decent sentence, I figured I’d give it a try.
Now, my friend had already warned me the chat participants are predominantly male, and those males they’re predominantly perverts. Kind of like the real world, I figured. (Little did I know.) Also, she said, some are just plain freaky — like the Asian guy she spent several minutes chatting with who’d been dressed as the Queen of England. “He was really nice, though!” she assured me.
Okay, fine: perverted male freaks, some dressed as the Queen of England, who might just provide fodder for my novel. Who could resist that, right?
Flash forward ten minutes.
Wearing a baseball hat and black Jackie O. sunglasses to preserve my anonymity (and because I couldn’t find my Groucho Marx glasses with mustache), I spent almost two minutes chatting with a sad old man who repeatedly asked me to describe my favorite sexual position. When I didn’t, he “nexted” me… which means I got ditched by a sad old man because I bored him. S’okay, it’s not like that hasn’t happened before.
My next chat roll led to a woman easily in her sixties though she certainly dressed decades younger. Most of her (wrinkled) bosom hung out of her cami top and when she batted her false lashes I marveled at how strong her eyelashes must be. I ‘nexted’ when she lit one cigarette off the butt of another.
By this point I’d started to think only senior citizens logged onto Chatroulette during working hours. My next few rolls neither confirmed nor disabused me of this idea since those people couldn’t be bothered to appear on screen but, instead, had angled their cameras toward signs saying “Show me your tits!” or some variation on that theme. I flipped them off and rolled on.
Then came two tween-aged girls who’d done their best to make themselves look older by slathering on makeup. Okay, so maybe senior citizens aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the internet during the day. But shouldn’t they be in school? They ‘nexted’ me after I’d scolded them over that and for clearly being younger than the 16-year-old limits on Chatroulette. Hey, once a mother always a mother, even if you’re trolling the internet’s underbelly.
Next came a slew of penis shots. Long ones. Short ones. Small ones. Fat ones. For some reason, guys who probably can’t even form a coherent sentence face-to-face with other people get all sorts of bold when the only thing they’re exposing are their nads. Which reminds me… if you’re going to show off your junk to total strangers online, maybe you ought to give it a good once-over first and check for things like dingleberries. Jus’ sayin’.
I finally gave up after one guy’s camera provided an unfortunately closeup shot of him tea-bagging a picture of Sarah Palin. I kid you not. Since I’m sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, I marked him as offensive. Guy needs to learn the difference between Tea Party and tea bagging, if you ask me.
Did I find good material to pepper a novel with? Oh, hell no. On the whole, I found the experience terribly disturbing, but probably not for the reasons you’d think. Sure, it alarms me that so many weirdos are so eager to play with their peckers for strangers online. But more disturbing? That I had so much fun telling those perverts that I couldn’t possibly watch because I couldn’t find my magnifying glasses.
UPDATE 07.28.10 – Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy has posted a message saying, essentially, that enough is enough. They’re now logging IP addresses and making screen captures of people using the service to show off their, er, stuff… and they’re going to be turning the documentation over to the police.