Social Media provides us with the ability to connect with people instantaneously through the click of a button. We can follow Conan O'Brien's delusional jobless whimpers on Twitter, Digg your favorite cat wearing sunglasses, or friend request your middle school sweetheart over Facebook.
But these media magnets are lacking in one specific area - a real, face-to-face interaction with words. As real as you can get over the Internet anyway.
The newest fad to hit the social media market is sending us back in time to the good ol' days of communication by speaking, and is giving us the ability to hear a tone of voice, notice body language, while also challenging the pale-faced, instant message gurus to respond within five seconds of a question rather than five minutes.
What is this social media marvel you ask? The online game of chance known as Chatroulette.
Combining the idea of spinning the colorful Wheel of Fortune and MTV's dating show "Next," (where you simply yell "NEXT!" to switch partners when your date isn't quite measuring up), Chatroulette connects you to a circle of fellow game players and allows you to either serendipitously interact with a new friend, or digitally ignore a future pen pal by hitting a button labeled "Next."
Although Chatroulette has the potential to immediately connect us to fellow human beings to communicate with, learn about, and experience cultures and view points different from our own, some people may feel a little "creeped out" when using the service - with good reason.
A recent experiment by New York City filmmaker Casey Neistat found that the Chatroulette community comprises 71% boys, 15% girls, and 14% perverts. Neistat also claims 83% of people involved are "young" with 17% "old." Another source indicates the average user is 82% male, with 9% of the images displaying male nudity.
The bright side of the story reveals that 64% of the content on Chatroulette contains "complete faces without nudity."
This means the fully clothed population is the majority on the digital pinwheel.
Keeping these stats in mind, I believe we can eliminate the negative stigma associated with Chatroulette and use the service to ultimately learn about our fellow man (and woman). I'm not talking about the hormonally-driven pervert sitting in the dark, I'm talking about the 28 year old American who is curious what it's like to live in eastern Germany 21 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I'm talking about the French student who wonders if California really is where dreams come true.
Experiencing opinions, viewpoints, and general tidbits of human life other than your own are how you truly learn about the world.
Remember, Chatroulette was only launched in November 2009. Let's not pull the trigger quite yet.