Monday, March 08, 2010


Chatroulette was about the last thing on the planet I thought I would try, let alone like, let alone love, let alone forfeit sleep to use. But when the prospect of trying it with a friend at a bar materialized, suddenly it seemed like fun. Who cares if strangers can see you if there are two of you? The idea of looking at dick after dick after ugly, marginally turgid dick is far less creepy when you've got a partner in voyeuristic crime.

I don't like speaking to strangers. I don't even like speaking to my friends on the phone, as anyone who has ever tried to call me can attest. Webcams, 1990's era chat windows, abbreviated chat speak, old men and their exposed netherregions. These are things I am pleased I can avoid. They are also crucial Chatroulette ingredients. And yet? I was totally sold.

My take on Chatroulette is that it is at once the best and worst of people, a confirmation that everyone is nosy and judgmental and mostly id, but that even the drunkest group of teenage boys requesting to see your tits is there because they love the idea of seeing a real person. If the internet is the Berlin Wall of social interaction, Chatroulette is David Hasselhoff singing at its demolition: stupid and cheesy, yes, but also optimistic about basic humanity and its desire for connection.

Prior to my Chatroulette experience, I've never had a quantitative assessment of my first impression. Your friends rarely remember what they thought of you the instant they met you and they probably wouldn't tell you anyway. The social contract dictates that strangers, even if they think you are ugly and stupid, will not yell "UGLY AND STUPID!" and walk away. Chatroulette, on the other hand, is an endless first impression with accompanying commentary. I have learned I am unappealing except to the kind of guy who likes 30 Rock, which is thankfully not that small a population. I am actually funny; I can see people laugh when I say things. As I feared, my facial features walk the line between masculine and feminine in such a way that neglecting my eyebrows and putting on ever so slightly drag queeny makeup (a bad idea born from fluorescent lighting in my kitchen and poor resolution on my webcam) gives the impression that I may not have been born a female.

Contrary to how brutal it sounds, and how much this would normally make me weep, it's somehow liberating because of the detatchment I feel by virtue of it being on the internet. That guy thinks I'm ugly? Eh, fuck 'im. Next. On the flip side, this guy is cute! But boring. Nexting you!

All told, I've spent probably twelve hours on Chatroulette in total. Here's what I've learned.

1. As I mentioned, half of the world seems to suspect I am a man. These people will want to see my boobs anyway, so it's kind of a wash in the self-esteem department.

2. One can emerge relatively unscathed if you operate like an unattractive high school girl. Avoid large packs of teenage guys and old men. The pretty girls will pretend they don't see you.

3. Everyone smokes weed. Everyone. Every single person.

4. The French deserve credit for not playing to type. All of the French people I've come across have been charming and kind and not at all rude (wearing pants).

5. Everyone lives in the same shitty apartment. We all decorate from Target. No one does the dishes.

6. It's good to have some schtick. My response to someone jerking off is always "Mine's bigger." I may instead steal the line I got from a (very cute) guy in Salt Lake City, who uses "Ten points for Gryffindor!"

7. There is an excellent art project out there to be done based on screencaps of people's faces just before they instantly disconnect you. Particularly teenage girls.

8. Chatroulette is clearly about judging books by their covers, but as with literature it's often edifying to read the books you'd reject. This is how you end up talking to a Texan ex-frat guy Ken doll with a large tribal rib piece who coaches football...about David Foster Wallace. When you get disconnected you will actually miss him.

9. You don't realize how infrequently you wave hello and goodbye until you're on a webcam, nor how pleasing a gesture it is.

10. Ditto for the middle finger.


Blogger snarkyandy said...

When I first met you, I thought you were SUCH a bitch. And you know it.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

COMPLETELY describes my Chatroulette experience. However, with mine I required a Silkwood shower afterwards.

2:03 AM  

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