Chatroulette has become all the rage among folks in the online video and social media scene, prompting coverage in the NY Times, CNN and other major national news outlets. Well if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Chatroulette but were afraid to sign on yourself, a new mini documentary by New York-based filmmaker Casey Neistat has about all you’ll ever need to know about the experience.
To get a feel for who participates in Chatroulette, Neistat took a cross section of the site by clicking through 90 people and breaking them down into three categories: “boys,” “girls” and “perverts.” (While the boy and girl categories are pretty self-explanatory, Neistat acknowledged that it was difficult to describe the pervert category without getting into graphic detail.) In his relatively small sample, taken at 4 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, he found the site to be about 71 percent male, 15 percent female and 14 percent pervert. He also found that Chatroulette skewed young, with 83 percent young people and 17 percent old people on the site (although Neistat didn’t explain how he differentiated between those two groups).
For a guy like me (or like Neistat), the Chatroulette experience isn’t just about meeting random strangers on the Internet. It’s also about being blatantly rejected by those strangers when they choose to hit the “Next” button. In a brilliant example of self-flagellation, Neistat decided to measure the average length of his interaction with those strangers before they “Nexted” him.
What he found was worse than you might expect (but not totally out of line with my own Chatroullette experience): Out of 20 random strangers, 19 of them clicked next, spending an average time of 2.9 seconds before making the decision. So Neistat invited his friend Genevieve — “a really pretty girl,” he says — to chat in his place and see if she has any better luck. The result? Nine out of 10 people talked to her, each for a minimum of 2 minutes, or until she nexted them.
Despite all this, Neistat sums things up nicely: “There is something magical about Chatroulette. If you can ignore all the masturbators…you’re left with this something that transports you around the world into a stranger’s life, and does it over and over and over again…I am glad that Chatroulette lives on my laptop. I don’t think I’d like a world where you could just click someone away.”
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