I just saw what?

| Forum Editor

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must ask deep, introspective questions. For some this results in a midlife crisis; for others, a simple reevaluation of principles. For me, I found myself asking a simple question: huh?

This inquisitorial guttural utterance came in the wake of a piece in the New York Times technology section, detailing the creation of a chat roulette program for college students called Random Dorm. Personally, I find chat roulette weird, boring and off-putting. Talking to some random people through a computer screen is time I would rather spend watching other people talk to each other on a screen, you know, like a TV show. From my thorough analysis of chat roulette, I can confidently ask why—of all the things one could do with money, intelligence and labor—would someone create a version of chat roulette for college students only? It’s not like the overwhelming percentage of chat roulette users are successful job holding middle-aged men and women. According to that same article, the most “avid users” of chat roulette were male college students.

Random Dorm requires you to use a college e-mail address to access the Web site. The result: You’ll now know the college at which that random erect penis resides. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to know where the people masturbating for public consumption lived. Call me anti-social, call me old-fashioned, but I find talking to random weirdos in real life awkward and painful enough. While the screen of my laptop is an incredibly inviting and comforting sight, I doubt it will ever inspire me to converse ad nauseum with the rest of the male college students across America. In addition, there are only so many times I can hear “Show us your tits,” without starting to believe I may actually have some.

Chat roulette is obviously a mindless diversion that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and, comically, it resembles Russian roulette in the sense that you never know which click is going to bring up a smoking gun, if you know what I mean. What is slightly irritating is the incessant search for new social networking possibilities. Facebook and Twitter alone clog the techno-sphere. Do we really need a social networking random college-only video chat client as well? Josh Weinstein, who created Random Dorm, hopes to “ensure a degree of community and security,” according to the New York Times article. Isn’t the thrill of chat roulette the insecurity and lack of community? Is there anything secure and communal about random video chat?

Why take the randomness out of it? If you want community and security, video chat with someone you know. The hilarity of chat roulette and its potential to amuse is rooted in the absurdity of what you find there. Why try to turn this into something legitimate? Let some things stay as they are. I barely have the time to talk to the friends I already have, let alone the time to video chat with random college students.