ChatRoulette “changing the face of social media”

I’ve been following media blogs and twitter profiles, and lately there’s been a lot of talk on ChatRoulette and all the viral stuff that’s been going around social media  such as FB, blogs, and especially Twitter and YouTube. CR is a social platform itself, and is definitely one that’s been getting a lot of attention – maybe too much attention – from internet users cos it’s still new and most of all, because you get to talk to randoms outside of your network and play around with that sense of chance and anonymity.

There’s no doubt that CR is changing the face of social media, as this article points out, the site gives users

…the ability to have a real, face-to-face interaction with words. As real as you can get over the Internet anyway…The newest fad to hit the social media market is sending us back in time to the good ol’ days of communication by speaking, and is giving us the ability to hear a tone of voice, notice body language, while also challenging the pale-faced, instant message gurus to respond within five seconds of a question rather than five minutes.

I’ve tried CR myself a few months back when it first came out on The Age, and to my horror two of the first three randoms that I encountered were male genitalia… and so I vowed never to go back there again. But weeks went by and more and more tweets and YouTube videos were mentioning CR, and the more I read the more I got interested in it again. I tried it again with some friends behind me – for support, and curiosity…but mostly for fun – to see who we’d encounter. We got “nexted” pretty quickly, but those who bothered to stay and talk to us were actually really interesting and normal people just here to have fun. But soon enough, the topic of conversation steered from asking for a/s/l’s to “show me your boobs” (from two very young boys, may I add!). And so we closed the window on CR again.

Well, the first article moves on to talk about the ‘diversity’ of the “community” on CR:

A recent experiment by New York City filmmaker Casey Neistat found that the Chatroulette community comprises 71% boys, 15% girls, and 14% perverts. Neistat also claims 83% of people involved are “young” with 17% “old.” Another source indicates the average user is 82% male, with 9% of the images displaying male nudity.

Interesting, but does CR really form a “community”???

BodySpaceSociety writes interestingly on “the sociology of ChatRoulette” and relate the new phenomenon to a “world of sheer immorality which will challenge all your values and potentially wreck civilisation“. But the author, Casilli refers to it as a form of community because

Social networking services have often been criticized for creating weak ties – as opposed to real, strong ties connecting individuals with their families, neighbours and peers offline. Chatroulette pushes the envelope by creating disposable social ties, thrown away after one use. According to the people at the Web Ecology Project this operating principle describes a « probabilistic online community », a social group where common practices, distinctive behaviours and a definite cultural identity emerge as a result of a stochastic process.

…the very notion of « probabilistic community » sounds uttely paradoxical to sociologically-trained ears. Since its 19th century beginnings, sociology has been concerned about the difference between the close-knit mutual bond connecting human beings in a « community » (Gemeinschaft) and the anonymous, alienating face-to-face relations that are common in what was described derogatorily as « society » (Gesellschaft). From Tönnies (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, 1887) to Putnam (Bowling alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2000), the grand sociological tradition has constantly stressed the sharp opposition between the sense of belonging, the togetherness of a community and the shallowness of « totally socialized society » (Vergesellschaftete Gesellschaft, as defined by Th. W. Adorno Thesen über Bedürfnis, 1972).

Chatroulette seems to question these distinctions, as it brings together disparate individuals with no strong ties, who end up sharing a common culture and peculiar codes of conduct.

But as interest in CR keeps increasing, there might be more developments in the future, and possibly the formation of a ‘virtual community’. But for now, I think it’s true what Casilli says… it seems like other than connecting people online and creating ties, albeit disposable ones, among anonymous people from anywhere in the world, it’s also becoming a platform for people to be deviant and it is breaking down social values. Or maybe, it’s just spreading this deviance to random people online and giving us more exposure/awareness towards the prevalence of these things.

Before this we just haven’t had the platform to socialise with randoms online – everyone we talk to on social media platforms have been our friends or family, or maybe other people we may not necessarily know in real life but people connected to us or our network in one way or another. CR has allowed us to look out of that network, this ‘bubble’, and see what’s happening in the other side of the world. And we’re slowly realizing that on the other side of the world there are voyeurs, exhibitionists, perverts, and children who have no problem asking to see you naked and shout obscenities at you if you don’t (for screenshot examples, click here [NSFW]). (FOXnews: Authorities call CR ‘Predators’ Paradise’)

So is CR a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it really depends on how you see it. There’re many entertaining videos on users’ experiences with ChatRoulette, and CR is moving from a simple social tool for perving and meeting new people, to promoting & marketing businesses (BuzzTV viral campaign, Travelocity), making parodies (Lady Gaga “Telephone” parody), making music videos (Israeli band Hovevey Zion), and just simple entertainment (CR Funny Piano Improv). It’ll definitely be interesting to see what will develop from here, but it’s even more inspiring, in a way, to know that this idea was conceived by a 17-year-old high school student. Really makes you wonder who else out there has other brilliant ideas that will change the social media landscape :)

2 Responses

  1. Interesting post.
    Here’s another interesting example of a campaign made on Chatroulette.
    ChatRoulette for a a better world:
    http://bit.ly/aC1MvT

    a great example of how to turn CR in something useful :)

  2. [...] Vivien has bravely persevered with chatroulette, the app. that is (apparently) returning us to the art of conversation via social media. She quotes some interesting stats: A recent experiment by New York City filmmaker Casey Neistat found that the Chatroulette community comprises 71% boys, 15% girls, and 14% perverts. Neistat also claims 83% of people involved are “young” with 17% “old.” Another source indicates the average user is 82% male, with 9% of the images displaying male nudity. [...]

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