Do Not Cross Omegle's Threshold Alone
A reflection on the dick-filled days of Omegle, and the safety of friendship.
Internet Nostalgia explores eras of the world wide web and the way they impacted our day-to-day lives, psychology, and overall perceptions of the world around us.
We use the buddy system for when we just can’t dare go about it alone. When I was a girl, I was told to use the buddy system for a plethora of mildly precarious moments, like walking down the street, finding your way back to the school bus after the field trip to the sewage treatment plant, or even the simply electric girl’s bathroom visit.
When it came to the digital world, I mainly explored the seven seas alone, scavenging for myself, discovering treasure and staring down danger all on my own. But, there was one website that I never dared to go on all on my lonesome, and that was: Omegle.
Omegle was, and unlike many of the websites I write about, STILL IS an online anonymous chatting website. It began as a text based chat room, where you click a button and are immediately paired with someone anonymous. It was a joyous, mysterious, dirty website that let you ask any questions you wanted, yet most people started out with “a/s/l?” If you ever told the truth about your a/s/l, you were too old to be on the website. The blissful anonymity that came with Omegle gave users the freedom to be whoever they wanted to be and lie their heads off. “I’m 19, female, I live in Miami, and I work in finance,” said the nerdy 13 year old who just got cut from her soccer team. “I’m 22, I live in NYC, and I’m Brad Pitt,” said the dumb 16 year old boy with all the time in the world.
The website was revolutionary, and by that I mean I talked to a lot of guys who were obsessed with the revolutionary war. No, but it really was. For years, we had been restricted to talking online to our friends? What the hell? We couldn’t just talk to our friends about the massive trauma we’ve been through, but we could do that with a stranger. We couldn’t just openly flirt with our friends, (well), but we could with a stranger. These conversations would never be saved and you would never speak to this person again, unless you decided to share Skype usernames. It was beautiful. It was the wild west. It was empowering. If you hated the conversation you were having with someone, well look no further than the END button. With one quick click, you were transported to another person you could start up with. Someone’s offended you? Erase them. Gone. They’re off your screen. You’re a God.
Text-based chats were fairly harmless, so Omegle needed to think of something new to really keep their audience engaged. This spawned the most terrifying thing you could imagine, what people feared when the Internet was first created: Anonymous video chatting. What could go wrong? Everything. Everything you could imagine happened, happened. But worse. Dicks. Masturbation. Old guys peeing. Live sex. Torture videos. Dicks. Frightening ghosts on video. Dicks.
And then, sometimes, rarely, there were not dicks. There were tender moments. You could connect with another girl your age who lives in Australia. You could ask her what school is like in Australia. You can giggle at her accent, she can giggle at yours. You can both geek out over the Jonas Brothers together. You can speak shyly together and not feel judged. You can feel grateful you get to meet someone you would have never met in your lifetime. You can say you need to log off to do some homework, so you click END, and then suddenly you’re met with… Dicks.
I never once considered going on Omegle while I surfed the web alone in my bedroom. Omegle was reserved for me and my best friend when we were at her house for a sleepover. Our little ritual. We’d get in her bedroom, open up her laptop, go on Omegle and see what the world had in store for us. And we got burned. Many times. But being with my best friend made it much easier, and honestly made these graphic sights pretty trivial. We could laugh at the dicks. We could laugh at the weird old guys. And more importantly, we could troll people together.
Our trolling began to get revenge after someone scared the living shit out of us. Once, when we got a new person to video chat with, their screen showed a terrifying girl ghost, and suddenly our screen was spammed with cryptic text that spilled out over the omegle web page and onto our entire laptop screen. It froze the computer. Shaking, in tears, I turned to her and said, “We need to learn how to do that.” Surprisingly, it was fairly easy. A couple programs downloaded, the scary video ready to be streamed, and we were cookin’.
As we frightened person after person, us two girls hid behind the cryptic text and scary video laughing like crazy. Was it evil? Maybe it would have been if I was alone, but being with my friend, it was joy. It was a wonderful, collaborative prank. And it gave us a chance to take our power back after being stormed by dicks, because there was no better feeling than seeing an old guy masturbating pop up on the screen, and then suddenly scream his head off when he saw our psychotic concoction.