Is Chatroulette the Future of Online Dating?

  • Chatroulette, the new site that lets you chat with random webcam users from all over the globe, is all the rage on the Intertubes right now. And much of the buzz is about how creepy and decidedly NSFW it is. Apparently the bulk of the users right now are dudes masturbating, people wearing scary masks, and teens and college kids dancing or giving you the middle finger. It's like the early "anything goes" days of the Internet, before the Yahoos and Net Nannys came in to make everything neat and tidy. 

    I spent about five minutes on Chatroulette before running away in terror. (It's not the half-naked dudes, it's the dudes in scary monster masks.) But it's also an intriguing concept: don't want to chat with the random stranger the site connects you to? Click "next," and fate instantly connects you to another cam. And while Chatroulette is a bit of a no man's land right now (well, more of a "no woman's" land actually), I can't help but think that the concept (in a more SFW fashion) could possibly be the future of online dating. We're already using Skype and YouTube in our everyday lives. Could Chatroulette, with the right policing and organization, help to bring back video dating?

    While everything else about the Internet has progressed, online dating has remained pretty much unchanged since the early days of AOL Personals and Nerve. You fill out a profile, and surf other profiles. And that's....basically it. Sure, sites like eHarmony or Loveawake claim to have scientifically proven formulas for finding your soulmate, and will occasionally adapt to new trends by adding things like IM or status updates. But, really, it's still no different than the old days of trolling the personal column in the newspaper hoping to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right-- you're still just reading about the potential love of your life. Isn't it time that online dating went Web 2.0? 

    What if there was a site, like Chatroulette, that let you randomly chat with webcam users in your area? (And I don't mean in a porn-y way.) You could filter by location, age, and interests, just like on a dating site. If someone was away from their cam, you could view a prerecorded video about the person and leave them a message or comment. And if you aren't interested, you click "next." Think of the time you'd save with an entirely video-based dating site: you could actually see and talk to someone before meeting in person. Not to mention how much more you'd learn about the person by chatting cam to cam, as opposed to simply reading a profile. 

    Plus, it would speed up the whole online dating process. My number one piece of advice to anyone who is interested in online dating is always, "get offline as fast as possible." Between contacting the person on the site, then emailing back and forth, IMing, talking on the phone, etc., online dating gets to be a long process. Sometimes all the back-and-forth causes potential relationships to fizzle before they've even begun. There's also the problem of the chemistry you have over email and IM evaporating once you meet in the real world. Chatting over webcam could help with the initial "getting to know you" stage, and provide a better indicator of your potential chemistry.  

    Sure, there are problems with my brilliant, sure to be money-making idea. For one, face to face rejection over cams could be rough. But is it any different than looking at your "who's viewed me" section on Match or OK Cupid and wondering why he viewed your profile, but didn't write? So while Chatroulette is only for the adventurous right now, it could be a sign of things to come. Right now, it's the latest Internet craze that we'll all probably be sick of in three months. But in the future, clicking "next" could bring you face to face with the person of your dreams. (Who hopefully won't be wearing a scary mask.)