Addicted to Chatroulette

I have an embarrassing problem to admit. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve become addicted to Chatroulette. I can’t really explain why I like it, but everyone I’ve introduced to the drug seems to get hooked as quickly as me.

No idea what I’m talking about? Chatroulette is the latest internet craze to help further the ongoing destruction of productivity across the world. The concept is absurdly simple: it’s a two-way webcam chat program that randomly hooks up two people, until one of them clicks the next button. Think about it as human channel surfing. And like television (and life in general), 95% of it is incredibly boring – it’s the promise of that 5% excitement that keeps you coming back.

If you want more details before taking the plunge, this short video should answer most of your questions.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really capture the appeal very well. For that, you’ll have to sign on yourself, although this video gives you some idea of the comedy potential.

I know what most of you Chatroulette-virgins are thinking: this sounds pretty stupid. And you’re not wrong. It’s really hard to pinpoint why this is more interesting than the average chat program, but it is. The randomness of it is a big part of it, keeping you hopeful that you’ll find something fun, even after clicking past hundreds of users. It combines the thrills of gambling, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and prank calling into one experience. It’s easy to spend hours on it, although you’ll get “nexted” less often if you let an attractive girl sit in front of the camera.

Apparently it was created by a 17 year old Russian kid with a $10 webcam and a bit of simple coding back in November 2009 to entertain his friends, but it became very popular very quickly. These days there’s usually at least 30 000 users online at any given time. Granted, a very high percentage of them are the predictable parade of penises (Chatroulette is not safe for work, and not for minors), but when you actually have a conversation with a real person, the experience quickly erases the trauma of the myriad of masturbating men you had to see along the way.

And while there are many reasons that people enjoy the site, the most common one is the obvious one: interacting with people you wouldn’t normally is fun, and one of the things the internet does best.[rssbreak]

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