You: How’s it going?
You: Oh…that’s your penis.
> You disconnected.
> Looking for a random stranger…
> Connected, feel free to talk now
You: doing hw
You: taking a little break
Stranger: need it sometimes
You: whatcha studying
Stranger: its not bad
Things were starting to go well. There was promise. We both gave each other a chance to speak and neither of us were exposing our genitalia. But I had to be quick if I wanted to keep things going.
You: what is your favorite religion
It was the first question that came to mind.
Stranger: to study
Stranger: or belief
You: in general
Stranger: im christian but i love studyin daoism and hinduism
You: thats cool
Stranger: ima get back to it though
Stranger: have a good one
You: you to
Your partner disconnected. Press “Next” to find a new person!
I was sad to see him leave. I thought there was potential for us to shoot the shit for a little longer. He seemed pretty distracted with his homework but maybe I was a little too awkward. Idk. I guess he just wasn’t that into me. No worries though. I was beginning to make progress with this chatroulette site and felt my social skills were improving. For the most part the conversations I had engaged in so far were only a few lines of either incoherent banter or small talk that never got past the weather. Quick and with no names, just as it should be done. But while this brevity in madness was all chatroulette needed to do to titillate me, I still yearned for something more. I saw the opportunity this site was presenting me with and I desired to share a meaningful conversation with another human being. What I wanted was a new friend.
I knew this was a difficult task since conversations on chatroulette tend to be only extended sessions of the types of superficial small talk you might have for a few minutes with the person sitting next to you on a plane, only things are much more awkward since it can be unclear what are the appropriate questions to ask. It feels too personal to ask the stranger on the other side of the computer where they live and how old they are, especially since these are the very things I was raised not to tell strangers. There’s a fine line between being friendly and being creepy on chatroulette, but my comfort level wasn’t the most difficult challenge I faced.
In trying to accomplish my goal of finding a new friend, my biggest obstacle was the very demographic that this site attracted. I kept a running tally of all those I encountered, keeping track of gender, age, and whether the strangers were in a group or alone. I found that out of the first seventy-eight strangers I was matched up with, fifty-five were male, twelve were female, and eight were penises. The penises were not very talkative, nor were the men. The majority of the males I encountered were usually reclining in bed, often shirtless, and would instantaneously “next” me, probably because I wasn’t a fine young lady whom they could talk to as they secretly touched themselves underneath the covers. Most of these creepers were of college age, although there were plenty of middle-aged, pedophile-looking men trolling the site as well. Many of these older gentlemen were bespectacled, overweight, and generally looked like one of my substitute teachers from middle school, particularly Patrick Schwab. The one creeper that stood out from the rest was a thin bearded man relaxing naked in a bathtub. Our time spent together was short but chilling as I stared into his cold, dead eyes for those brief seconds. The eye-fuck he gave me was not very enjoyable, nor the type I’m accustomed to receiving.
Yet after my conversation with the religion major things started to change, and the older fellows I was connected with started to talk to me. I discovered that some of the adults shared the same perspective I did about the site.
Stranger: what are you looking for on here?
You: just checking out the site
You: its interesting technology
Stranger: yeah, me too
Stranger: really interesting
Stranger: i think its super funny
You: i agree
Stranger: too much cock….and
Stranger: i’m gay!
You: very true
It was nice to find, though, that someone else saw the same absurdity and amusement in the site that I did, although in retrospect that conversation no longer seems so normal. But this one still does.
You: how has your day been
You: i hear you
Stranger: hows yours going
You: just need to finish some work up
Stranger: i just finished a bunch of reports
You: do you have more work left
Stranger: i think i’m done for the day
You: thats good
We kept going at it like that for ten minutes. Although he was rotund and bespectacled like the rest of them, I had a feeling from his tidy home office that he was different. He was kind and had gentle-looking nostrils, but it felt like talking to one of your friend’s dads in their living room as you awkwardly wait for your friend to get ready and come downstairs. The worst part about it is: when you sit down in person with a guy, it’s easy to crack a smile and laugh when he tries to be funny. When you’re instant messaging you can type “haha” in various lengths of measure to pretend that you’re laughing. But with chatroulette you can do neither of these two social tricks. In all my conversations, I found it hard to keep a smile going if it wasn’t genuine, so when I chose to type, my “hahahas” couldn’t mask the emotionless expression on my face. Ultimately, while I truly liked the guy, and I mean I liked him a lot, I knew in my heart we could never be more than strangers, so I bid him adieu. There were still 40126 online for me to meet.
Overall, I had the best luck in my conversations with Europeans. For whatever reason, they were the most open to having normal discussions, and as a result I met a diverse and interesting array of people. I met a woman from Norway who was a political advisor, a guy from Tunisia who liked techno music and sunglasses, a girl from France who will be attending architecture school next year, a high school rugby player from Ireland, a college student from Hungary, and many more. The small talk went deep with all of them and I felt like I was starting to get to know these people in a kind-of- sort-of way. Maybe this is what seventeen year-old Andrey Ternovskiy intended for when he created chatroulette; not to create a place to carry out voyeuristic desires but a place where people across the world can learn to better understand one another.
While all these Europeans were awesome no one stood out quite like Christopher Delmarle, an eighteen- year-old high schooler from some town in northern France. I felt our connection was authentic and not random like the others ones. Chris enjoyed playing soccer and Call of Duty and quite frankly that is all I’m looking for in a friendship right now. At the conclusion of our conversation I headed over to facebook, typed his name into the search, and added him as a friend. Now I’m simply waiting until we become Facebook official. I think this could be the start of something beautiful.