by GENEVIEVE LISTON
A number of my girlfriends are on Blendr.
Yes. The way you are looking at your computer after reading this statement is exactly how I reacted when they told me at dinner the other night.
Blendr, for those not familiar, is the straight version of gay social networking App Grindr, which is so popular amongst the gay community it attracts almost 100 000 new users per day.
Basically to start using Blendr and Grindr all you need to do is enter some basic details about yourself, maybe upload a photo if you’re keen and your phone uses your current location to search for other single ‘candidates’ who might either appeal to your interests; or are simply within a certain radius and up for a shag.
Yes put that simply it is quite frightening. Which is why I was so shocked to find that my girlfriends who are all intelligent, educated, beautiful women would be using this ‘geo-location’ technology to attract a potential mate. And I am by no stretch of the imagination a prude. In fact I have always considered myself one of the more open minded and liberal members of my friendship group.
“It’s a bit of harmless fun,” is what the girls told me as they proceeded to share some, admittedly, hilarious conversations they had had with guys on Blendr. Despite my own preconceived opinions, it took just twenty minutes for me to agreed to download the app on my phone.
Later that night as I lay in bed in my blissful red wine stupor, I created the most basic of profiles. Single, female, white (NOTE: not Single white female), I pressed accept when it asked if I wanted to use my current location. And that was it. No pictures. No interests. No indication of what I was looking for or who I was. Just the most basic of details.
When I woke the next morning my phone had received a couple of ‘Hey’s’ and a rather alarming number of sideways smiley faces. This seemed harmless enough. But as the morning progressed my phone almost went into meltdown. And so did I. All of a sudden the vulgarity grew with comments that would make even John Travolta blush.
“Hey- wanna f@$!?”
“Wanna see my (insert a myriad of heinous words for male genitalia here) ??”
“Would you f@#$ a married man?”
Although my initial reaction was to delete my App and burn my phone along with any items of clothing/bedding I had come in contact with while receive these messages, I resisted the temptation. For, once I got past the shock came a genuine intrigue.
What on earth was motivating these people to get in contact with a complete stranger? And more to the point, what were these people hoping to receive in return?
And the fact I had not uploaded a picture made it all the more interesting to me.
A quick Google search told me that millions of people right across the globe are using Blendr and 3.5 million people are on its gay brother, Grindr. Enormous figures.
Gay friends tell me that they have genuinely used Grindr to hook up with men close by, but the experience mostly made them feel quite dirty. And I do know a couple of people who have gone on dates after chatting with people on Blendr, but unfortunately for them, the dates didn’t exactly spark any great romances.
So what was this really all about? Hassle free sex? Or could this actually be the new age of dating?
Most of us connect to hundreds of people daily through social networking, We put comments/photos out into the ether via Twitter and Instragram and people we have never met, and probably never will meet, read them. So maybe its really not that strange to think that this would transcend into our romantic life? After all, we’re all so busy these days aren’t we, wouldn’t it be great if meeting someone could be THAT easy?
Perhaps. But there were a couple of messages I read that made me think this whole seemingly shallow dating site might actually have a little more to it than meets the eye.
I received one message in particular that really made me think.
‘Hey beautiful. How are you today? How was your night last night. Up to anything interesting this week?”
If I received that message from one of the guys I am actually dating I would still think that it was a little bit much. But to receive it from a complete stranger actually made me feel just really sad. This was a person wanting to feel connected. To feel like there was some kind feedback from the universe. It didn’t matter who I was, or what I looked like or even that I was who my profile said I was. They just wanted someone to make them feel… well, something.
“Hey Genni. Wanna chat?”
“Hey genni Wots a guy gotta do to get ur attention?” (I had to resist the temptation to write back, “you may like to begin with basic grammar.”)
The more comments I received and the more time I took to actually read them I realised most of these people just wanted something to take the edge off their loneliness. Just wanted to be heard and have some kind of interaction. It seemed most people were simply using Blendr as a sounding board for life. Some even seemed to genuinely just want to meet and chat to new people.
And so I had a thought, is this really any different than chatting to a complete stranger at a bar, or in a cafe?
Our mobile phones these days are so much at the centre of our social worlds it kinda makes sense that they are used as a dating tool. We spend so much time, texting, tweeting, uploading photos – why shouldn’t we also be using to meet new people with the added bonus of them being close by?
I must confess that when I am dating a guy, or like someone even a little bit, I have been known to engage in text marathons or up to 30 texts a day (double this if they happen to have a sense of humour). I love nothing more than seeing the name of a the boy I’m into flash up on my phone, and if I am interested there is no limit on how many text messages I’m happy to receive a day. (However there is certainly a limitation of how many emoticons or sideways smiley face as seems to be the trend on Blendr, I will allow. As a general rule, one is too many.)
The thing is, I am very rarely communicating with any purpose. I’ll send photos, or write probably pretty lame jokes which at the time I think are outrageously clever. And I don’t necessarily want to achieve anything from the texts. I guess its just to have someone’s attention and some kind of outlet.
And the truth is if I’m not dating someone, I genuinely miss that interaction. I hate not having someone to exchange witticism’s with or to share photo’s or stories of my day. And I find it quite lonely when I wake up on Sunday morning with no missed calls or messages.
So maybe all this Blendr stuff is just born out of our nature to want to be connected. The desire to feel someone else at the other end of the line. A need to feel like we are not alone. A way to live out out fantasy’s and an outlet for for our jokes. Should or does it actually matter where and how you find that connection?
I’m beginning to think I was too quick to judge my friends and all Blendr users alike. Maybe it is actually offering people exactly what they need…. A small antidote to loneliness, a good story at dinner with their girlfriends and if they’re game, a date or two.
…Or maybe I’m reading way too much into this!
Genevieve Liston is a twenty something Melbourne based producer. After a somewhat frightening two year stint in Right Wing Talk Back radio, she is currently on hiatus from news and current affairs and instead fills her days with football and funnies working on Network Ten’s Before the Game. You can find her on Twitter here.
Would you ever consider using Blendr?