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Is chatroulette a good way to train social situations communication or overcome fear?

I'd say it is a pretty good training tool for what not to do on a regular basis. There are certain things you can't mess up on a regular basis like you would like. Like, I can't give a speech at a party and expect to be liked. You cannot just randomly end up in a room with someone you have no personal relationship with. And so you need systems in place to sort of detect these situations, to model these situations so you can intervene before they become too frequent.

One example of this is Thich Nhat Hanh's work in biofeedback. In other people, he has placed electrodes that are sensitive to when they're frightened, and he records that information. And if this information is shared outside of the person being watched, then their nervous system is triggering negative emotions in the body. They get anxious, they get irritable, they get hyperactive, and then the body can't take it anymore. And so they have biofeedback stations around the house where people can put their heads under a big black curtain and get this feedback every day, and they've also got a support group where people can get feedback on their body image. And so these kinds of things, these kind of tools, can help people avoid situations that they're afraid of, or that they're uncomfortable with.

There are other areas where chatroulette and other similar technologies can teach valuable lessons, such as the importance of having a conversation while you watch, or rather, interacting with someone else watching you. So if you get nervous while you're watching someone else do something, or you're uncomfortable while you're watching someone else, you can always go and talk to them. You can message them, you can just say, Hey, I'm curious. Can I watch you do this while you're driving? And if that's not comfortable enough, if you still don't hear back, you can go and video chat them. And if that works, then you can go ahead and yell F5 at the video camera, because that's how you get the footage you need to fix the problem.

But the real value of chatroulette is that it shows us what interaction looks like between strangers. It's shown us what people are afraid of. And that's incredibly important, because without that interaction, we as a society don't experience the world any differently. We don't experience it as a place where we can be vulnerable, where we can be free to be ourselves, to break free of the shackles that are preventing us from doing that.

And that's something that video games have taught us absolutely nothing about. I mean, most games don't teach us anything about the interaction of strangers. I've written about the difference between friends and enemies in Cities in Motion and in other pieces. But in the vast majority of games, there's absolutely nothing we players can do to shape the experience