The site activates your webcam automatically; when you click “start” you’re suddenly staring at another human on your screen and they’re staring back at you, at which point you can either choose to chat (via text or voice) or just click “next,” instantly calling up someone else. The result is surreal on many levels. Early ChatRoulette users traded anecdotes on comment boards with the eerie intensity of shipwreck survivors, both excited and freaked out by what they’d seen. There was a man who wore a deer head and opened every conversation with “What up DOE!?” A guy from Sweden was reportedly speed-drawing strangers’ portraits. Someone with a guitar was improvising songs for anyone who’d give him a topic. One man popped up on people’s screens in the act of fornicating with a head of lettuce. Others dressed like ninjas, tried to persuade women to expose themselves, and played spontaneous transcontinental games of Connect Four. Occasionally, people even made nonvirtual connections: One punk-music blogger met a group of people from Michigan who ended up driving eleven hours to crash at his house for a concert in New York. And then, of course, fairly often, there was this kind of thing: “I saw some hot chicks then all of a sudden there was a man with a glass in his butthole.” I sing the body electronic.
A few hours after my first ChatRoulette session, one of my actual physical friends came over to my actual physical house. I told him all about my horrifying experience that afternoon—the insults, the masturbators, the searing flashbacks of adolescent shame. He demanded that we get on the site immediately. Somehow, with two people, the experience was different—the rejections less intense, easier to laugh off. We ended up staying on, talking and dancing, connecting and disconnecting, for four hours. We chatted with Pratt students in Bed-Stuy, with a man inexplicably sitting on his toilet, with a kid waving a gun and a knife, and with a guy who went to my wife’s old high school in California. We saw Chinese kids in computer cafés and English kids drinking beer. We danced with a guy in his bedroom to the entirety of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” We talked for half an hour with a 28-year-old tech writer from San Francisco.
After a while, I started to get the lay of the land. The median age seems to hover around 20, and males outnumber females probably twenty to one. Sex is ever-present, whether insinuated or enacted. (My wife sat in front of the webcam for a while, and it was suddenly, disturbingly, a much friendlier world.) People are endlessly soliciting nudity, both in person and via signs (“FLASH TITS FOR HAITI,” etc.). Roughly one out of every ten chatters is a naked masturbating man, and even they will usually hang up on you, one-handedly, before you can click away.After you...
H/t Daily Dish.