The part that made me laugh out loud:
One person had the courtesy to give me, before disconnecting, a little advice: “too old.” (I’m 32.) A girl with heavy makeup looked terrified when my image popped up on her screen—I actually felt guilty, a few rounds later, when the engine of randomness threw us back together and she had to look at my face for another excruciating half-second.Poor Sam. I'm forty and would likely get the same reaction from all of those young and cool twenty-somethings who typically use the site. One thing that the writer did like about it was its randomness and lack of filters. You see the face of a fellow user on a webcam and if you aren't interested in chatting, you click "next" never knowing who'll pop up. You might not (except in the above example) ever see the same person twice.
When I first started using the Internet—remember WebTV?—randomness was what it was all about. Message boards and football stat sites, chat rooms and websites that I'd read about in Wired Magazine were among my most visited online destinations. One site (I forget the name) was created solely to take you to random websites at each click of a "next" button.
Now it's just Facebook that everyone is on. In the lobby where I work, I see dozens of business travelers a day working and killing time on their laptops while they break between meetings or wait for business associates or airport shuttles. For the most part, it's just Facebook that I notice on their laptop screens. I met a mature traveler recently who was very serious when making sure with me that her guest room would have wireless Internet service. I assured her that it did and she excitedly remarked that she had been on the road since early that morning and hadn't been able to check her friends' Facebook status updates. I smiled and asked her if she was on Farmville, too. "Yes!," she laughed. "I am so addicted to it."
We use the Internet now with so many filters and feeds, following and friending and sharing and pinging. It's all great and I get a kick out it, too. While I probably won't be making my way over to ChatRoulette anytime soon, I would like to explore beyond the social networks more often and maybe stumble across some of those interesting gems that are surely out there. Now where's that old website that used to do that for me?