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Your Digital Kids

Chatroulette: An Intergenerational Tour

A 55-year-old woman in broad daylight has no business visiting Chatroulette, where the population seems to be restricted to 18- to 30-year-old hormonally charged boys on the other side of the world.

For those who don’t know, Chatroulette is the latest form of social media—social voyeurism. You sit (or not) in front of your PC’s webcam. You appear in small box on the lower left of the screen. On top of you appears a blank black box. Press F9 and you’re put in contact with a random stranger (literally named stranger). You can romp through these one-on-ones with complete strangers and move on to the next whenever you get the urge.

Chatroulette

Chatroulette

Of course there are rumors about Chatroulette. While I only encountered one in the act of masturbating in front of his webcam, it was the topic of conversation for most of the others.

At four in the afternoon East Coast time, I found myself transported to bedrooms in Wales, the UK, and Australia. Impassive young men stared blankly into their webcams.

Stranger 1: I swear this guy just had a photo of himself as a place marker. I don’t know if he would have showed his face if I’d been more his type, but I got no movement—not even an eye blink in response to my friendly waving.

Stranger 2: A sweet 20-something in a tie-dyed shirt and big headphones. Willing to talk. Said he liked to chat but that there were far too many naked guys jerking off in front of their cams for his taste. When I said it was time for me to move on, he teased that “he liked older women and that I should stay a while.“ It was my Mrs. Robinson moment on Chatroulette.

Strangers 3 and 4: They whipped right past me before I even knew what hit me. They must have decided that they didn’t care for my looks before I even registered their presence.

Stranger 5: Had a really cool LCD projector in his room. I thought that he was standing in front of an outdoor billboard. Not too cool on my part.

Stranger 6: A guy who looked a bit closer to me in age. He was from France. Then my phone rang. It was my daughter, who is probably older than most of the guys I’d been talking to. I felt totally weird and told the Frenchman I had leave.

Stranger 7: Wow a girl…at least I think it was a girl. She vanished so quickly all I saw was a waiflike body and some shoulder-length hair.

Stranger 8: Finally, the moment I’d feared but also sought out, arrived. Eight clicks into Chatroulette and I had my first naked masturbator. The camera was nowhere near his face; his pants were down around his knees. I had the feeling of interrupting something very private.

According to the Huffington Post, Chatroulette is 13% pervert, 89% male, and 47% American. Well, two out three ain’t bad. I did not meet an American (or one who would ‘fess up to being an American) in my Chatroulette travels. I met no people of color, no Asians.

I won’t be going back to Chatroulette anytime soon. In comparison, it made what little I can remember of the singles bar scene seem like an enlightened place. Without reading too much into my sub one-minute encounters, there was something sad.

And now that I’ve learned that Chatroulette maps, a mashup that lets you locate the people you’re talking to by tracking the location of their IP address, can put your photo on its big board, that’s enough for me. Voyeurism in the name of research is not my game.