Chatroulette: What the Kids Are Talking About

Chatroulette is a kind of serendipity engine for discovering strangers with whom to video chat. It’s also one of the first web memes that made me think, “I am way too old for this.” Here’s a great six-minute movie describing what Chatroulette is:

Everybody’s talking about Chatroulette at the moment. There’s a good piece from New York magazine–I like their description of what you might find when you join the site:

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…I sing the body electronic.

I don’t have a lot to say about Chatroulette at the moment, beyond these three thoughts:

  1. Once again, we have the pornography industry to thank for foreshadowing a mainstream phenomenon.
  2. It’s simultaneously voyeuristic and exhibitionist. You’re the watched and the watcher. That, to me, is its secret sauce.
  3. In terms of lonely cries into the ether, Chatroulette puts blogs to shame. We just keep inventing better metaphors for the disconnected existential existence that is modern life.

I find nothing about Chatroulette appealing. I’m obvious not opposed to superficial wastes of time, but the process just seems kind of joyless to me. Am I wrong?


  1. I’m with you. I don’t even video chat if I can help it, even when my kids pester me to do it, and I generally keep my instant messaging clients off too. I’m pretty sure I’m too old for Chatroulette, even though I think it’s extremely cool in an abstract nerd-analysis sense.

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