Like something straight out of a dystopian novel, Chatroulette-a website gaining rapid notoriety-is a chilling sign of our times. Each site visitor is instantly paired with another randomly selected user for a webcam chat in a kind of cross between "Hot or Not" and speed dating. If one participant gets bored, he or she can simply click "Next" to move to another conversation partner. As one might imagine, visitor experiences range from the bizarre to the pornographic to, once in a while, the surprisingly meaningful. Its premise represents the very antithesis of care and connection, revealing our short-attention-span culture's fear of commitment and intimacy.
Any job seeker knows that the best way to find work is through a friend, acquaintance, or family member. A new web start-up, Jibe, taps its users' existing social networks to make that connection easier. Job seekers use the service to quickly link their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and indicate the kind of work they're looking for. Jibe then mines their contacts to find those with employers and industries that match the user's interests. It's up to the user to contact friends and request a reference or ask about employment opportunities; Jibe just helps uncover and narrow down the possibilities.
Formspring (formspring.me) is a website that invites users to set up a free account and invite friends and social media contacts to ask anonymous questions. Launched early this year as a fun forum for friends to learn more about one another, Formspring has become a magnet for cruel personal attacks among teenagers. (If the user's settings allow, anyone can submit a comment or question; the comments go into a private mailbox, but many users bizarrely make public even nasty personal attacks.) Some pastors and churches are also using the site to answer questions about faith, theology, and difficult issues from congregants who find comfort in the anonymity.