Chat Roulette stretches boundaries of Vchat

September 21, 2010 — by Will Edman and Allison Toh

On what seemed like a typical Tuesday night, junior Nicole Fetsch stared at her computer screen, video chatting with a Yoda doll that was being held up by a stranger hiding underneath his desk. Unsure of what to do next, Fetsch exited the site before she saw the person’s face.

So it goes in the world of Chatroulette, the latest trend in the use of video-chatting technology. Originally a medium of friendly communication, video chatting has evolved into something many teens consider adventurous and fun.

Chatroulette, like any other form of video chatting, allows two people to see and communicate with each other from any computer in the world. The twist? Chatroulette randomly pairs its users so that people videochat with complete strangers, an eccentric form of communication. However, the website also gives users the option to switch chatting partners at anytime, making chats usually very brief.

“It is an amazing place to go to when you are bored,” said junior Jonathan Koo. Many students have found this website as an opportunity to interest themselves and sometimes procrastinate. Some students, such as Koo, even use the website as a method to make new acquaintances.

“I decided to try Chatroulette out because it sounded fun and [you get] to meet new people but never have to see them ever again,” said Fetsch.

However, many students are wary of using Chatroulette because it has garnered a notorious reputation for its indecencies. Because there is no age limit as to who can use this form of virtual communication, Chatroulette is at high risk of becoming the home to sexual predators.

“I wouldn’t recommend that students use Chatroulette, because there are many weird people,” said Koo. “I went on and a lot of men were just looking straight at the camera.”

Even so, many students are still riveted by the comical groupings of individuals they videochat with and the uncertainty of who they may meet.

“I’ve had a bad experience with Chatroulette, but it is still fun if you skip over the bad things and don’t let people know too much information about yourself,” said Fetsch.

As an experiment, we ventured onto Chatroulette and found that Koo’s description was correct. About 90 percent of all of our chatting partners were grown men who did nothing but stare at the camera, making for an awkward experience.

In some rare situations, we saw comedians dressed in funny ways or making interesting sounds. In general, though, we thought it would be better to avoid Chatroulette and find more efficient and safer ways to spend our free time.

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