By Jason Paul Laxamana
Central Luzon Daily
There are a couple of reasons we chat with people we don’t know online. Back when I was still a Yahoo! Messenger chat addict, I went to chatrooms the name of which sparked my interest, like “Atheist VS Christian chatroom” and “Tambayan Kapampangan,” carrying the assumption that I would have the opportunity of chatting with people who shared the same interest.
Some who entered the chatroom merely lurked (an Internet term which means to be a member of a chatroom or forum, but not shouting out anything; an observer of the exchange of messages instead of a participant), while some debated with, or even flamed (an Internet term which means to debate with argumentum ad hominem) people who held beliefs different from theirs. A frequent case in many chatrooms though, regardless of their topic, is the abundance of perverts, meaning people who go online and try to pickup anyone, and probably invite him/her to some SEB (sex eyeball), or the so-called cam-to-cam (cybersex through webcam).
Now how about joining a chatroom that sets you up a session with a random stranger from anywhere in the world?
One of my time-killers in my recent vacation in California was logging on to this website called Omegle (http://omegle.com), which my big brother introduced to me. The introductory message of the site says it all: “Omegle is a brand-new service for meeting new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like.”
I personally found the concept appealing. You know, being paired with a random person in cyberspace. Questions popped in my mind such as: What country will he/she come from? What age? What school level, course, or job? What interests? Will he/she be worth my time? Thinking of all these variables whenever Omegle paired me with a chat-mate gave me excitement, and I have chatted with a variety of people so far—from an interesting linguist from London who knew stuff about the Filipino language, to a Han Chinese university student who was forced to take up English.
I had a long chat with the linguist from London, who was not surprised with my proficiency in English, since he knew about the status of English in the Philippines, a country which, he said (and I agreed) had “stupidly big malls for a third world country.”
Sometimes, chats become very interesting in that I would chat with them until the wee hours of the morning, and we end up adding one another in some social network website like Facebook, like that Canadian French student whose ambition is to become a famous literary writer in Francais someday, the Mexican girl who is into spontaneous photography, and an independent grunge musician from Holland who hated his country’s wintry weather.
Despite the global accessibility of Omegle (even China allows it), the countries where participants usually come from are the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Holland, Brazil, and China. The only Filipinos I know who use Omegle are me, my big brother, and my cousins in the United States.
Disconnecting, Jerks, and Perverts
But not every stranger is fascinating. In fact, the chance of being paired with an interesting person is slimmer than being paired with a blah person. The good thing though is that you can disconnect with your current session, and Omegle will then pair you with a new stranger. (You can’t chat again with the previous person you’ve chatted with because contacts are not stored unlike in Yahoo! Messenger; unless serendipity is by your side and you get paired with the person among all other users online from all over the world).
Many times, the first thing you chat-mate would ask you would be your ASL (age, sex, location). A lot of times as well, if the person on the other line is a typical guy, and learns that you are also a dude, he would then disconnect without explanation. But the obvious explanation is that he is looking for someone from the opposite sex.
There are those who disconnect after learning what country you come from, or after learning about your age.
I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I usually disconnect without justification when the person on the other line answers briefly with questions. Like when I ask about how it is going with his/her country, and he/she answers with only a word, I disconnect. I yearn for more articulate people who just want to have a nice chat about anything under the sun. Some, usually high school students who are 12 to 14 years old, aren’t just very worthy of my time. Hey, I have the freedom to be a jerk, too.
Sometimes, I play pranks with people, too when I feel like it. I pretend to be someone else and make up my own fictional character description. I already have pretended to be a single mother from Japan addicted to communist ideas, an intelligent American male hustler wanting to commit suicide, and even an alien medium from India proclaiming the arrival of the aliens from a faraway galaxy.
It’s a nice exercise for fictional writers like me, hehehe.
About the Philippines
I have this habit of asking my chat-mate if he knew where the Philippines is, because I have encountered a lot who didn’t know where it is. Some didn’t even know it was a country. One stranger from Belgium thought it was one of the states of the US. One thought it was in Spain.
So what are you waiting for! Let’s add more Filipinos to the Omegle community! Log on to http://omegle.com
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