Reading XKCD’s blog (blag, actually), I came across the website called Omegle. Before sharing my own experience with it, here’s what the author of XKCD has to say about it:
Since last night I’ve been obsessively connecting to Omegle.
It’s a simple site that just connects you to a random person, anonymously, for a conversation.
It feels like that scene in Fight Club where the narrator sits down next to Tyler on the plane. Two strangers meeting, laying out their personality and sizing each other up in just a few words, with no expectations, and — thanks to anonymity — no consequences.
Except in this case, a lot of the time Tyler just screams “COCKS”, punches the narrator, and jumps out of the window.
I have to admit I’ve had similar experiences. So far, my ratio of ‘normal’ conversations versus absurd crap is something like 1 to 8. My first chat was with a boring 28 year old chinese guy that studied history. Talk about an anti-climax. Then followed some really funky chats. One was with a guy that talked like a spaced out hippie, introduced himself by a name that started with a Z (can’t remember it now) and disconnected within the first minute. Then came another guy that clearly was out to have cybersex, because he disconnected (jumped out the window is a nice expression) as soon as I told him I was a 23 year old male. Luckily, my next chat was with a normal 16 year old american teenager dealing with good old fashioned teenage angst. Finally a conversation that lasted longer than 20 minutes. Hats off though, the girl managed to get me to write down one of my teenage poems before she too, jumped out the window. She did apologize for having to run out. And then you have the conversations that start with an incomprehensible greeting. You think ‘oh, interesting, an exotic stranger’, but they of course, jump out of the window as soon as they realize you’re not from wherever-land. This reminds me of an anecdote I learned at school about a historic battle in Belgium between the french and the flemish speaking parts. The flemish soldiers had a trick to find out who was french speaking in their quest to kill all ennemies. They would go around town and command any one they met to say out loud ‘eendracht maakt macht’ (the national motto: Strength through unity). Of course, no french speaking person could pronounce the ‘ch’ phonem correctly, and thus killed in midsentence. But what amazes me, is that this Omegle website has an average of 2000 users online. Do you really expect to just stumble upon someone that, like you, greets people with “höst lan” ?
But of course, it makes sense. The costs of starting a new conversation with a stranger on a website like Omegle are so low, that even thought he odds aren’t your side, it costs almost nothing to roll the proverbial die over and over again. In other words: even if the chance of encountering a stranger on Omegle willing to have cybersex with you is 1 out of 50, it only takes about 15 minutes and zero money to make those 50 attempts. And with the anonymity thrown in for free, well who can blame you for your endeavour? Funky things start happening in such conditions. It reminds me of the early days of internet, when mIRC was the popular embodiment of internet, and I would spend afternoons with my friend at cybercafes where for a ludicrous 8 euros an hour, we would join channels like ‘Japan’ and talk to random strangers with the enthusiasm of a moonlanding. Of course, it wasn’t long before the pranks started. I remember my own friend, finding out my nickname, logging in with a new one, and chatting me up, making me believe he was someone else. Then came the power of knowledge, where admitting to someone on your school’s mIRC channel your nickname’s true identity was the sort of decisions that weren’t always safe; knowing someone’s identity allowed you to bully him/her by the sheer act of letting him/her know that you knew who he/her was, and that his/her days of hiding behind anonimity were over. Seriously, a big loss of power on a school mIRC channel where everyone could be someone else, or just someone cooler. With the years came maturity, and nobody was really hiding anymore. And today, on Omegle, the stranger I was about to talk to said she was 17, horny, and that I should click on her link to leave her a message. All this within 3 seconds, before she too, jumped out of the window. Why am I not surprised.