ChatRoulette is, if you don't already know, a simple, supposedly revolutionary outlet for out-and-out internet voyeurism. It's a two-way looking glass allowing users to instantly video chat/see the dicks of complete strangers. And people can't. Stop. Doing it. Addicts!
The New York Times can't stop ChatRouletting. In the month of February so far, three mentions of ChatRoulette, two of which were stories: Melena Ryzik was sly about fitting a ChatRoulette kicker into the NYT's awards-season movie blog Carpetbagger, asking of the Oscar's social media efforts:
Oooh, do they know about chatroulette?
Capital-C, Ryzik. Respect the creation bringing the arbitrary wangs of the internet onto your page! The Times' tech blog Bits sure did when they wrote up a pretty fawning account of emailing with ChatRoulette's evil Russian genius creator, 17 year-old Andrey Ternovskiy. But they took it one step further today when NYT tech writer Nick Bilton dove headfirst into the complete, absolute weirdness and philosophical rabbit hole that is a casual stroll through The Beast Ternovskiy Hath Unleash, running two awesome ChatRoulette screengrabs (pictured below) in a story entitled "The Surreal World of Chatroulette."
This is totally wonderful, because Bilton basically nailed it:
At one moment I was sitting in the living room with my wife, and on entering the site, we were siphoned into a dimly lit room with a man who told us he was in Russia. Moments later we were watching a woman dance half-naked in a kitchen in Turkey, and then we stared in shock at a gaggle of laughing college students in a dorm room somewhere. With each click of the mouse we were transported into a stranger's life - then whisked along to another jarring encounter.
After five minutes, we disconnected and sat in silence, disturbed by the rawness of some of what we had seen.
What he's trying to say is that within five minutes of being on this thing everyone's freaking out about, he saw some very real random dick that kinda freaked him out.
To put it plainly, the New York Times is a decidedly highbrow institution, and their fascination with ChatRoulette—in theory, an incredible experiment, but in practice, a lowbrow toy good for funny screengrabs—is pretty hysterical. But they're not alone. Vanity Fair's posted two pieces on it this month, one about the Times interview with Ternockiy, the other a Michael Wolff column about his own pervy experience with ChatRoulette. New York Magazine's Sam Anderson took his own spin on the crazywheel earlier this month, and came out with shit like this:
My longest exchange was with a guy who seemed to be wearing one of those protective cones you put on a dog after surgery. "LICK YOU ELBOW," he typed. "Why?" I asked. He disconnected.
Right? There's even a blog now dedicated to crazy ChatRoulette screengrabs. ChatRoulette is...You just shouldn't do it. But if you do, there exists the very rare possibility that something magical might happen. It's like the internet's version of Let's Make A Deal, and behind doors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 and so on are all either people who will hit the NEXT button after looking at you for five seconds, turning your window out into the world of ChatRoulette into a black screen, into which you have yet another door, or: a dick.
But behind door number 178,283 is something awesome. Former Defamer videographer Molly McAleer actually got recognized on ChatRoulette by someone she'd never met before.
You have to admit, that's kind of awesome. Still your run-of-the-mill ChatRoulette craziness, but awesome no less. And even we here at Gawker have some strange kind of presence on ChatRoulette. Blogger Paolo Mastrangelo, folks:
You: How did you find out about chat roulette
You: who is your favorite writer
Stranger: you know them??
Stranger: richard is hilarious
Stranger: gabriel just left, right?
Stranger: ARE YOU RICHARD??
Stranger: if so, i might have just seen my soulmate
DoyouseehowfuckingcrazyChatRouletteis? Lawson doesn't even have to go on ChatRoulette to both (A) have a nice little ego boost from it and (B) be completely creeped out by it. You people will never, ever learn. The nice thing is that the more popular Chat Roulette gets, the less likely "lottery winning" experiences like this are. And because most people are insane or crazy you're just going to see more freaky shit. Or the Black Box of Next, because nobody is good enough for anybody.
ChatRoulette is a mainline, a direct window into the collective consciousness of thousands of people. With that in mind, WHY ARE YOU STILL USING IT? Freaks.
Update - Missed this one: SF Weekly web editor Alexia Tsotsis also took a spin on the Wheel of Wang. Her conclusion is, well...
One "Roulettee," when asked what he thought the service was most useful for, responded, "connecting with people around the world." Yeah, and asking them to show you their boobs.