OMG, Omegle…!

In the age of ‘Net, moral degradation can come from anonymity and privacy. I report from that last frontier.

Last week, a friend sent me a link about www.omegle.com, an online chat website which pick ‘another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each’ anonymously, according to their website.

Omegle has an entry in wikipedia (so it might be a pretty big deal, right?), and was mentioned in a New York Times article. So, against common sense and my better judgment, I started using it. It went lackadaisically uneventful for me after a few minutes, but my friends—they are less fortunate. They were assailed by raunchy messages in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Dutch—which says something about the general social ineptitude of people in those countries, and also about what people do when anonymity is handed out to them.

Out there, it is like the chatrooms in the fledgling day of the Internet minus collective monitoring. Now, it is one-on-one and proposals for cyber-sex apparently galore in multitude of languages. It is like Babel mixed together with Sodom and Gomorrah.

We fear a day when governments will track our IP addresses and take away the last semblance of online privacy and anonymity. With websites like facebook and twitter, we are moving towards less private world in which everyone can see and judge us for what we are. Through Omegle, anonymous blog posts and comments (and perhaps even Second Life) we veer towards another extreme—an underground anarchistic world where cowards, perverts and hackers hide behind their monitors.

As we navigate the happy medium between these two extremes, we must also be aware that our online personae live in an ever-evolving world. In an age when etiquette, decency and accountability are fast evaporating, privacy and anonymity can be the last things we can hold on to. Yet, this too shall pass. In the future, when we—the facebook generation—become the employers of the next generation, how could we look down upon our employees who had put up incriminating pictures/stories on their websites?

Maybe we could, but let us not be hypocritical but be be public, frank and accountable.

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