‘Tinder’ella and the Grindr’s-Is hyper connectivity resulting in real world isolation?

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I live next door to a gay porn star.

No really. And I didn’t know this until I saw his Twitter handle displayed a hearty xxx. We are both in our mid-twenties, hold decent intellectual conversations and are of the same orientation, but clearly from different worlds.

He is a star in his own content world and after perusing through his many posts, I began questioning not only his relationships, but also my relationships, and then South African relationships in this rich media and mobile-connected world.

‘Selfie’ may have been the word of the year in 2013, but ‘Catfish’ (loosely explained as, a person seeking love through the internet using a false identity) it appears will garner much attention in 2014.

Online South Africa: Addicted to being connected?

In the 10 years of Facebook, South Africans have been collecting friends like Pokémon cards, and connecting offline has somewhat fallen by the wayside. In January 2014 We Are Social released their global snapshot of key indicators, comparing major mobile, internet and social media using countries in the world. Second to Brazilians, South Africans were shown to spend more time using the internet via desktop than the likes of Indonesians, Americans and Singaporeans.

While South Africa was not shown to be the leader in time spent using the internet via mobile, we spend more time on our phones than the Brazilians, Americans, Chinese and the Brits. South Africa has over 68 300 000 active mobile subscriptions with a mobile internet penetration of 38% and 59% of these use mobile social apps. What’s more, South Africans spend on average 2h29min accessing the internet via a mobile device and 3h01min using social media every day, explains We Are Social.

Looking at the stats the question begs to be asked:

As a result of all this online socialising, are we losing our ability to socialise and find love in the real world? Geo-locating love Recently I had a client that wanted me to investigate niche social networks to target the gay market. After qualitative and quantitative research of the three most popular geo-social cruising mobile apps, Grindr, Manhunt and Gaydar, I discovered that there are about 200 000 men on these networks actively looking for love.

Grindr, the 2011 Crunchie Award winner for the best geo-social network, allows men to see which men are close to them and what they are looking for from partners. In South Africa it is the 70th top grossing app in the iOS store. It was not surprising to see that these men seeking men were predominantly white and 62% were located in urban areas. What was surprising was that Johannesburg beat Cape Town in active subscriptions and that these populations include the gay, curious and straight, married men.

Tinder, a geo-social mobile app similar to Grindr and the next big word of 2014, pairs people up based on their interests and mutual likes of each other’s profiles. In Brazil it’s already the most downloaded app and already the 151st top free app on the SA iOS charts. The five million South Africans using the PC based Zoosk’s services also seem to be moving with the mobile first trend. Facebook stats about heterosexual interests correlate with the gay cruiser app trend, showing that Johannesburg is indeed the city with the most people looking for love.

Where social stats show that 19% of the country is already using location based services, and Uber isn’t the only taxi they are looking to catch a ride with. So have we lost our ability to flirt offline and do we need online in order to facilitate offline? Have we lost the ability to interact in the real world and if so how does this, :* , supplement a real kiss?

Furthermore is online effective? Geo-social ‘catfishing’ could be viewed as a crowded room, leaving the senses overwhelmed, people get picky, and we land up picking no one. Perhaps Aristotle predicted this when he said, “Anyone who cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”

Has society become one of these beasts because people cannot flirt using only their five senses, or has it become one of the gods embracing the identity tolerance intrinsic by using technology to enhance the experience economy of love? Time will tell whether these apps and social sites catering for those looking-for-love-online will last or become redundant as users revert to some good old-fashioned courting techniques. As my neighbour would say, “maybe we were just porn this way.”

By Donovan White, Social Media Strategist at NATIVE VML

Follow Donovan on Twitter at @DonoWhite

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