Mar 102010
 
Authors: Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the Jonas Brothers’ genitalia! That’s right, just another 60 seconds on Chatroulette.com.

If you haven’t heard, here’s the deal: Chatroulette is the latest craze sweeping the Interwebz, combining the capabilities of many computers on the market now having webcams with one of the most powerful forces online: anonymity. 

Basically, if you want to play the game, head to the site, fire up the webcam and hit next. A random stranger will come up whom you can video chat with. It is 21st Century blind speed dating.

On an unrelated note, we’re amazed that no one thought of this earlier. It was invented by a 17-year-old Russian kid in November.

It just goes to show that there is probably a lot of simple, million-dollar Internet ideas stuck inside couch cushions somewhere.

Back to anonymity on the Internet: if the Internet were a planet, anonymity would make it go ‘round. That’s the beauty of it.

The Internet is not necessary to express crazy political and religious speech to an audience of people; anyone who has walked through the canyon of high rises in Manhattan can attest to that. Doing that anonymously, though, is another story.

Anonymity gives you freedom. It allows for what you have to say to be judged on the merit of the words alone and nothing else, and this can be powerful.

If you’ve read the book “Ender’s Game” you might be reminded of Peter and Valentine’s exploits using the “nets” to mask their identities and blog their way to becoming some of the most powerful political figures on Earth (as young teenagers).

Though published in 1985, this story eerily resembles the present, save one element: power in numbers.

Many of you have heard of 4chan, everyone’s favorite message board.

Despite the negatives you hear about it, it’s a fairly powerful group when you take into account the combined hacking skills of its user base, which appropriately conducts all its operations as a single entity dubbed “anonymous.” Every post made to the board also lists the user name as anonymous. 

Due to the nature of much of the content on the board, as well as the politically driven hacking “operations” it conducts, 4chan would not exist as we know it if it weren’t anonymous. 

We could conjure up more anecdotal evidence, but this isn’t a research paper, so it will suffice for us to say that anonymity is quite the cesspool (and we use that term endearingly) of off-the-beaten-path Internet entertainment.

Don’t worry. Though it seems trendy now, Chatroulette won’t be mainstream until your mother starts using it. So let’s dive right in while it’s still worth talking about.

After reading several status updates from ladies on Facebook who were convinced they had been talking to the Jonas Brothers on Chatroulette, we decided that the site warranted a look. So we headed over to http://www.chatrt.com to begin our quest. 

In mere seconds we were face to face with a random 20-something guy, who suddenly disappeared almost as quickly as he had shown up. We had been nexted, a word used to describe the process of hitting the “next button” to move on to someone new, usually as soon as you see them.

We were a little put off, but we got over it moments later when someone new popped up on our screen, only to feel that familiar lonely feeling as he nexted us in less than a second.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Internet, take note that this nexting business is primarily a result of dudes only looking for ladies.

As time went on we got used to the nexting and even began to experiment hitting the button ourselves. It almost felt good in a judgmental, god-complex sort of way. 

Eventually we were able to find a few cool people who talked a bit with us; we even ran across a group of girls willing to chat a bit, which you’ll find is rare as the female sex is a sort of an endangered species on the site.

We had a female volunteer stand in front of our webcam, and we found she was nexted far less often than us.

We should also note that this isn’t the best thing to be doing at work, in public places or if you’re easily offended by phallus.

Every once in a while we’d stare at a little more than we’d bargained for, so just remember the next button is only a click away.

Columnists Ryan Gibbons and Glen Pfeiffer encourage you to stop sending people links to Rick Astley’s video and instead send them the video of “Always” by Erasure. Comments and questions can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

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