Sunday, March 14, 2010


According to the hit Broadway show Avenue Q, the internet is for porn. And while I wouldn't disagree that it promotes the proliferation of that industry, I do think it serves many other purposes as well. Without Facebook, I would not be in touch with the elementary school friend who, after we reconnected, asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding (or, for that matter, all the boys in middle school who didn't ask me to slow dance because I was a late bloomer). Without MySpace, Tila Tequila would not have a career that extended beyond a stripper pole.

Some claim the Web brings us together; others insist it has driven people farther apart by digitizing relationships (and I'll admit, my phone demeanor has suffered). One recent online development, however, strikes me as a throwback to the "old internet" I grew up with while also managing to be insidiously innovative.

I speak, of course, of the phenomenon of Chat Roulette.

If you've over 25, chances are you haven't heard of this site; it's pretty new and all the rage among the young Web-savvy kids. The concept is simple: talk to totally random strangers, selected randomly. But here's the really creepy part: with webcam technology, you can SEE and HEAR the creepy strangers. At any given time, there are thousands of people on the site and when you log on, you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with one of them. And if you don't like what you see, you can simply click "next" and talk to someone else.

As my brother pointed out, the sheer randomness of Chat Roulette is reminiscent of the 90s chat rooms I used to frequent when I was an AOL user. My family had an account and I had my own screen name: Liminal15 (precocious, I know). And sometimes, because I was a curious and horny teenager, I would chat, shall we say flirtatiously, with people I didn't know.

Chat Roulette takes this to the next level -- and having visited the site a few times (trust me, it's better to experience it with friends as opposed to solo), I can say that about 50% of the time, I found myself not so much face-to-face with a stranger, but face-to-penis. The truth is, Chat Roulette is saturated with guys who just want to jerk off on camera for the exhibitionist thrill. They don't really want to talk. The only communication I received was rarely in the form of complete sentences; one guy said "titties?" and another asked me to flash him after waving a ten-dollar bill at the camera, as if I could absorb the money via osmosis. I still can't decide if this gesture was tacky (I'm only worth $10?) or polite (it's the thought that counts?)

It's a strange world we live in, folks. And Chat Roulette just made it a little....ickier. Except this guy, he's awesome:

Another weird/scary internet trend in the news: Human-flesh Search Engines in China. Apparently, people gather together online and target those in their communities that they don't like and carry out a kind of mob bullying. This sometimes results in the victims losing their jobs and having to relocate.
I guess if I had to pick between being harassed online by a faceless mob or being inundated with images of masturbating oddballs, I choose the latter?

Which brings this post pretty much full circle: the internet is for porn (unless you are unpopular and live in China)

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