So you spin the wheel, land in someone’s home and decide whether or not you like the look of them based on their webcam. It’s brutal. You literally never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Sometimes it’s easy – you see something you wouldn’t even see in a biology lesson and you click F9. NEXT!
Other times you’re taking a second or two to check out the person’s face and CUT! – they’ve already moved on from you. That’s a bit insulting, to be honest. It leaves me feeling mildly curious about why I was barely spared a glance. Luckily it’s a speedy little game and your attention is quickly diverted to the next image.
If you’re fortunate you’ll land on a fairly normal-looking person who’ll stick around long enough to type “hi” in the text box. But then the pressure’s on to be witty from the get-go, instantly charming and endlessly fascinating. At any second the conversation could be terminated by your new 2D pal and a man with no pants could suddenly appear. You snooze you lose.
Like any gamble, sometimes it pays off.
Celebs are rumoured to dally in it – I saw this screengrab of incredulous teens and Perez Hilton – and you might end up being properly entertained. YouTube has some hilarious videos of people’s reactions to what they stumble across – like Lady Gaga’s doppelganger or this super-talented pianist.
You might even – gasp – have a conversation with someone pretty cool, learn something or just enjoy a random chat. Chatroulette has been likened to “a walk through Times Square thirty years ago”.
It is a painfully honest form of social media – what you see is what you get. It’s also a whistlestop tour of a very young network which may – like Facebook – develop its own possibilities the more people use it. But is it useful right now? If you want to create a viral campaign based on consumer reaction or a Willy Wonka-style, land on the lucky line promotion – then yes, possibly. But mostly it’s a bit of fun, with an edge created by the very real risk your innocent eyes may be assaulted. A gamble too far? That depends where you draw the line. Just beware – like all gambling it has the potential to become addictive.