Chatroulette: A Call for Change in Social Media?

Recently, discussions of Chatroulette have come up in several of my classes. Some classmates admitted trying the new form of social networking, while others were skeptical or unaware of it.

In a video posted on Vimeo.com, filmmaker Casey Neistat explores the Chatroulette phenomenon. Neistat spent a Thursday afternoon clicking through 90 people on Chatroulette to collect data about the users. He divided the users into three categories: boys, girls and perverts. Of the people he encountered on the site, 71% were males, 15% were females and 14% fell into Neistat’s “pervert” category. As a subcategory, he found that 83% were young people and 17% old people.

Through his experiment on Chatroulette, Neistat discovered the concept of being “nexted,” which is when the stranger immediately clicks the “next” button upon seeing you. Neistat was nexted 19 out of 20 times in an average time of 2.9 seconds. After the initial disappointment of being nexted so frequently, Neistat realized that he would probably next himself too. Once he became comfortable with the service and its nexting option, he only stopped on pretty girls. Neistat’s experience with Chatroulette raises the question: besides giving boys a place to surf in the hopes of chatting with pretty girls and offering a place where perverts are free to be perverts, what is the value of Chatroulette?

Chatroulette may be a call for change in social media. After all, the service was created by a 17-year-old Russian teen seeking a more entertaining form of social networking. The entertainment value of Chatroulette may lie in the element of surprise it has introduced. As Neistat stated in his video, “It’s like gambling; you can never predict what you might roll. Maybe you meet an interesting girl, maybe it’s a fat Asian guy in a pink bra.” The allure that people have to this element of surprise might be something for social media professionals to consider.

To watch the video and read more about what PR professionals could learn from Chatroulette, visit the Strategic Public Relations blog: http://prblog.typepad.com/strategic_public_relation/2010/02/chat-roulette-the-element-of-surprise-discovery.html

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member, Michelle Voli.

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