Remember online dating? Gosh, that seems so last century. An iPhone application which allows cruising gay men to locate one another instantly using Global Positioning System technology is now spreading to the heterosexual market.
This latest rage in online romance is called Grindr
. Grindr is a free, downloadable iPhone app that lets you find "gay, bi, curious guys near you." It's sort of a sexual version of toptable
-- an iPhone app that allows you to search for all the restaurants offering a certain cuisine in your immediate vicinity. Similarly, Grindr provides a grid of who else in your neighborhood is using Grindr, what they look like and -- tantalizingly -- exactly how far away they are from you, measured in feet. If there's mutual interest, you can begin to "chat" and . . . who knows? The night is young.
Grindr has been hugely popular since its release in March 2009. There are now more than 700,000 men in 162 countries using Grindr
, with 2,000 downloading it every day. A BlackBerry-friendly version was launched last month. It's so popular that its creator -- the 33-year-old American-born Joel Simkhai -- will be releasing a "straight version" by the end of the year targeted at heterosexuals.
For those of us old enough to remember when online dating was still considered the exclusive province of a geek fringe, it's fascinating to watch how technology has transformed sex and relationships in recent years. In addition to Grindr, the other big Internet phenomenon of the past year has been Chatroulette, a Web service that combines live online chats with randomly chosen, complete strangers.
While Chatroulette facilitates all sorts of encounters with strangers, there is a fair share of nudity and sexual behavior
. (Interestingly, while Chatroulette's users tend overwhelmingly to be college-aged males
, the demand for the heterosexual version of Grindr is coming predominantly from women, according to Simkhai.)
The question, of course, is what do all these technological advances mean for relationships?
Well, more sex for starters. Hard to get around that. When the guy or gal you've been fancying really is
just around the corner, it's hard to imagine that a significant portion of human beings wouldn't act on the urge to have a face-to-face encounter. And a recent story about Grindr in the Guardian
would seem to support this hypothesis, at least within the homosexual community.
In addition to more promiscuity, sites like Grindr and Chatroulette also seem likely to chip away at the norm and practice of monogamy. Extramarital affairs have already changed dramatically with the rise of the Internet
. Readily available technologies such as e-mail and Facebook make it extremely easy not just to imagine a romantic "other" but to actually start communicating with that person at the touch of a button. We've even got new terminology to show for it: "chexting" (cheating via texting) and "nexting" ("next" is how you move on to the next random stranger in Chatroulette) are now part of our lexicon.
One study in the United Kingdom even claimed to find a link between social networking and sexually transmitted diseases
, like syphilis. Researchers observed that a number of patients who'd contracted STDs in one region of the United Kingdom had met through social networking sites, like Facebook. Their conclusion was that such sites make it easier for people to meet up for casual sex.
OK, then. More sex. More adultery. And more STDs. But what does this all mean for romance? Is old-fashioned dating of the "dinner and a movie" variety history?
Maybe so. Much like my post last week addressing the ways in which science is making it possible for women to "have it all" where their biological clocks are concerned
, perhaps technologies like Grindr and Chatroulette have rendered dating obsolete. People no longer need to undergo that arduous process of getting to know each other, discovering that they don't click and then going back to the drawing board again and again until Mr. Right steps through the door. With things like Grindr, you still do a version of that, but the speed and intensity with which you sort through your options is dramatically accelerated.
So look out, people. That cute girl you've been eyeing next door? She may just be looking at you, too. And now -- in the immortal words of the singer/songwriter Prince in his hit song "Darling Nikki" -- you really can just call her up "whenever you want to grind