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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What happened to Chatroulette?

Society is plugged in. We’ve merged with the ubiquitous Internet, zooming toward that speculated singularity with unbridled passion and determination. It’s everywhere, Google, Twitter and Celebnudes.com at your very fingertips.

It goes without saying that mankind will continue becoming more and more in tune with this vast web of information and clips of cats, until it’s beamed into our skulls directly. Before this happens though, it seems like a good time to reflect on where we are now in the grand Internet timeline, and look back at trends that have come and gone.

The first, and dearest to my high school heart, is, of course, AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. If you were a 16-year-old kid when I was, and didn’t spend four or five hours on this daily, then you probably had a strangely successful after-school social life. For the rest of us, it existed as a form of entertainment on par with Super Smash Bros. or coping with puberty.

A conversation could not take place without the secret ritualistic runes typed: “”Hey.”” “”Hey.”” “”What’s up?”” “”NM. U?”” “”NM.”” Once the sacrament was completed, you were free to talk about what that one teacher did an hour ago in class. It was also a great way to make innocent friends instantly using the simple and foolproof identification method of A/S/L. We were all a bit more naive back then.

AIM has now been replaced with Facebook Chat, a regrettably formal and objective-based chat device. Since you can just stalk statuses and pictures to see what the person did an hour ago in that class, the chat is limited to goal-oriented diatribes, even if you have to small talk a bit to get there. Have a moment of silence for four-hour conversations. Those were better times.

Right on the heels of AIM and finally gaining the ability to talk to girls is, of course, Myspace. Now a hilarious punchline whenever someone talks about Facebook, it was a glorious and unprecedented beacon in its heyday. It had such novel features as the ability to upload up to eight photographs of yourself, or change the background of your page to a color so ugly it only exists on the Internet (after parental controls have been hacked).

Truly a precedent, it set the stage for socially acceptable cyber stalking, a pastime that has surpassed baseball in today’s modern America. As more and more people joined, it seemed set to become a global phenomenon and control the entire Internet. Then … Facebook happened. Now Myspace is a great place for your sub-par band to post songs, or for you to revisit and see that your wall has been posted on 721 times in the past three years by an automated bot named SxyKitty696.

Last year saw the emergence of a new Internet superpower, a genius high-concept device that would bring the world together in ways formally unthinkable. People love talking to strangers on the Internet: What if you could see those strangers, and confirm that they are, in fact, in their basement alone? Thus Chatroulette was formed, and it was good (for a while).

As various people around the world reveled in this new form of interconnective media amusement, a strange thing happened. Like the first zombie sighting in an apocalypse, Larry Smith from Oregon was flipping through when he thought he saw … “”No, it couldn’t be,”” he muttered to himself. He quickly hit the “”Next”” button again, hoping to assure himself. Soon, he was confronted with another one. A few frantic clicks later and “”Oh no.”” It had begun. Chatroulette hadn’t foreseen male appendages and the exhibitionists wielding them.

The allure of being able to show “”yourself”” to a global audience was too much for most males to resist. Chatroulette, unlike AIM and Myspace, has no current day replacement, just a lot of cleaner minds.

As a constantly evolving medium, the Internet is only beginning to show us the twisted and life-consuming applications that it can conjure up. A few years from now Facebook will seem laughably obsolete, not even able to allow the user to “”voodoo poke”” friends, or to watch people embarrass themselves at parties in real-time.

It will, however, be a great place to put up pictures of your sub-par band: SxyKitty696 and the Sexbots. Coming to a digital venue near you soon.

 

— Johnny McKay is the multimedia editor for the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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