Since what seems like the beginning of time, ticking hormone-bombs faced a wonderful dilemma: they wanted no-strings attached sex. And up until 10 years ago, people in search of partners joined niche chatrooms, awful party lines and had to cruise bars – risky adventures that didn’t always pay off.
Smart phone applications like Skout and Blendr changed that, offering easy-to-get sex with willing strangers who might be around the bend. The efficient applications have proven to be an international success, with a reported 3.5 million Grindr users in the world, according to PR Newswire.
Sex apps are a positive force in our society enabling individuals to express their sexuality in healthy ways; people once restricted by community taboos or social circles are suddenly surrounded with liberating and fun possibilities. However, these touch-screen-tools also have downsides and should not replace real-life socializing – even if it is just for some casual sex.
Before making judgements, I decided to test out the Grindr app, popular in the gay male community, for one week. What I found in sex apps was the same outcome of Twitter and Facebook: an elimination of social skills (thanks to people using them as substitutes for social lives). People’s flirting skills might be heading that direction as well.
Set up was a hot and sweaty breeze. Once the application has been downloaded, users are asked to provide a profile picture and their exact location. You will soon find out that this part caused me the most problems.
Once registered, the app throws your image into a sea of people who can be divided into two groups: the ones with a fair amount of social grace and the people you will most likely witness grabbing a fistful of boob from unsuspecting women in clubs.
During my seven-day trial, I encountered my fair share of unwanted explicit photos (a picture of you mid-orgasm isn’t wooing material) and more disturbingly, an online stalker.
I met my obsessed fan on night three of the trial. The man sent a friendly message saying, “what are you into?” I would soon learn that he didn’t want to know about my hidden passion for vintage clothing.
“Lol cute. U a bttm?” the man asked.
“I’m here for friends,” I replied.
What followed were 15 minutes of me softly rejecting a man who could not take a hint. As previously mentioned, the app’s location feature was the source of my trouble, allowing him to vaguely figure out what street I lived on.
“I’m nearby where you are,” the man messaged me. “Let’s meet up.”
The fear of being murdered wasn’t previously in my mind, but I started racing and swearing like Clint Eastwood at the RNC. Covering all my bases, I blocked the man from my profile and promptly deleted it. Grindr definitely wasn’t home to charming Casanovas.
The tragedy of it all? Physically, the stalker was 100 percent my type and I would have talked to him under normal circumstances. I am not alone in discovering that a seemingly attractive person online has the seductive skills of a shotgun.
“I’ve done it with a couple of guys I’ve met online,” said Kimberly T., a 19-year-old community college student who used Skout a few times before meeting her girlfriend at school. “They’ve been cool… because I’m super picky.”
While using the Skout application, Kimberly remembers the unsolicited nude pics that appeared randomly in her chats with men.
“I got this message from this guy I’ve never even talked to,” Kimberly said. “Muscle, in his 30s and a little gray hair… the message had a [picture] of his wang and the text ‘hey cutie.’”
Twenty years ago, if a man wanted to flirt with a woman who was way “out of his league,” he risked being ridiculed by the “classy” drunk folks at a bar or party. Now, all one has to do is write a simple ‘hey’ to a woman and pray she believes him when he says, “yes, that is a picture of my nine-inch-penis on my profile.” In the end he might be rejected, but will face no real repercussions.
While we no longer have to waste time seducing Mr. or Ms. Right-Now at the local McDonald’s or waiting until last call at the Tonga Hut bar, the applications can also rob us of the little remaining social muscle we as Internet beings possess.
The result is an attractive, yet awkward individual with poor skills whose lost an essential part of living in a diverse society. Picture a drunken Kristen Stewart and the story writes itself.