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Social Networking Site Encourages Talking to Strangers

By HERWriter Guide
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A rapidly growing Web site takes the fantasy of a 17-year-old boy and puts it online for the whole world. It’s like speed-dating tens of thousands of people, some fully dressed, some naked.

Chatroulette (chatroulette.com) enables one-on-one conversations with random strangers, webcam to webcam. Even if you don’t have a webcam, you can go on the site and chat with a stranger via instant message. If you don’t like what you see, you just move on to the next person.

What exactly will you see? Turns out there’s a lot of inappropriate behavior, including guys exposing themselves. While the site has statements about not tolerating obscene broadcasting, the reality is there is little to no oversight. The site also actively encourages visitors to talk to strangers, going against the grain of traditional parental advice. According to a report cited by the Wall Street Journal, most users are 18 to 24 years old, and 87 percent are men. The report estimated 5 percent to 8 percent of users were either naked or had the camera focused on their genitals.

The site was developed by a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow who said he created the site for fun, and he’s against those who use it “in not very nice ways.” He added, “Others do really unbelievable things I could never think of. They make up songs about strangers and sing to them, draw them, listen to music, broadcast them their own music."

In just three months, through word of mouth, the site has grown to 50,000 visitors a month. Many use the site in positive ways such as practicing foreign language skills, sharing recipes, having interesting conversations and more. Now with the attention of the news media outlets, even more people, including children, have found this site. Some Internet protection organizations have advised parents to block the site, while some Internet investment firms are taking a look at it as the possible “next big thing” in online media.

Would this type of site interest you? What would you use it for? Would you want it regulated in some way? Is so, how? Do you think this could be the new wave of social media services online?

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EmpowHER Guest

I created a Facebook app that takes the ChatRoulette concept– matching you up with a stranger from anywhere in the world — and adapts it to Facebook … by swapping your status update with that of another random Facebook user. I call it StatusRoulette.

March 3, 2010 - 7:49am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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