You had me at “sup got anymore pics?”

This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his/her project on social media and digital culture .  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

My research topic is based on a topic with which America has a love-hate relationship: sex! More specifically, I am examining how social networking and geolocation services have changed the gay hookup scene. Whereas men used to go to the local gay bar before the internet, technology has greatly facilitated and streamlined the process of finding partners, either for love or some lovin’. I made profiles on a few different sites and I’ve been pretty shocked to see what I’ve found.

The range of guys who use online resources to hookup is extremely diverse. I’ve talked to other students, attorneys, construction workers, machinists, entrepreneurs, professors, and party planners to name a few occupations that these men hold. They’ve ranged in age from 18 to 47 (or should I say, “18” and “47”). Some are interested in just chatting, and some are interested in sex. Most are HIV- but there have been a few who are open about being HIV+. Some don’t disclose, and some don’t care– a scary prospect. They range from being totally in the closet to being out to everyone. One commonality is that most are embarrassed to use the site. I’ve received messages from over one hundred guys, which has led me to my biggest conclusion: it’s surprisingly addicting.

As bad as it sounds, tt’s easy to stay logged in to a hookup site all day because it’s fun to get messages from other users. Basically, hook up sites are as much about ego stroking as they are about actually finding sex. Who doesn’t want to be complimented by total strangers? When I first made my profile on one of the sites, I had three hundred messages in my inbox within a couple days. In 48 hours, I received more compliments than I have in real life in the last 19 years. Chalk it up to online anonymity– much like alcohol, it provides an excuse for people to say what’s on their minds without fear of repercussions.

I’m in the middle of compiling data from profiles that will give my audience a better picture of who uses the sites online—average age, race %, and the like. I’m really excited to see the end results for myself when it’s all said and done.

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 2, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to You had me at “sup got anymore pics?”

  1. Allie Crandall says:

    Hi Cooper!

    First of all, I think your blog post was fantastically written. You were fun with your tone which perfectly matched the topic of your blog and of your research topic. You entered into your topic with an open attitude that made the topics you touched on (i.e. HIV) easier to connect with and less of a taboo subject (which I love). I would have loved to have been given one little anecdote as to the compliments that were paid unto you (unless of course they were all explicit), but because you peaked my curiosity with the number of compliments you mentioned. I think an example would have added that extra punch to your post. The only improvement I would suggest would be in your last paragraph. You could try to rephrase that and establish yourself with a tad more ethos just to give your reader the sense that you are making sure to balance your fun online with your analytical stance. Over all though, I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and that is probably the most important part!

  2. Sam G says:

    Wow, really interesting!

    I found two points especially surprising:

    First, how diverse the users of the site were. I’ll admit it, I definitely had a stereotype in mind about what kind of users would be using a gay dating site. I also think that I thought that users would tend to be of a lower economic status rather than professors, attorneys etc. (I’m not really sure why I thought that, but I wonder if the same diversity is reflected on straight dating sites?) It’s interesting that despite the despite the diversity and despite the willingness to compliment others, there is still embarrassment about using the site.

    Second, the incredible rate of action and complimenting. Your comparison to alcohol seems quite apt. I think it’s that combination of anonymity (low risk) with huge potential returns that encourages users to go out of their way and give that extra compliment. Internet dating almost seems better than real-life dating. Are you going to try to take any of these off-line? It would be pretty interesting to see how a relationship that began online translated into the real world.

  3. wendylinlu says:

    Hey Cooper,
    Thanks for sharing your experience on hookup sites. I found your blog to be very interesting as you described your first-hand experience and I liked your honestly when describing the “fun” and “ego” factor of these sites. I would like to know more about whether the purpose of these sites lies more in the fun, casual online interactions, or if they are actually effective in accomplishing the goal of getting hookups. For example, most people use Facebook for communicating with people that they know in person, not for just finding online personas to chat with. It would be interesting to explore how interactions on these sites translate to offline relationships.

  4. flinkbeder says:

    Wow. I have to say that those are some incredible numbers. I’m not sure whether there is some indication that you were a new member, or whether you are especially prone to messages (for being young and/or attractive), but those numbers suggest that members send out hundreds of compliments daily. I’m wondering (if this large number is true) if they do this just because it is fun, because it sounds like it is verging on the pathological. I don’t know whether you want to go in this direction for your research, but I see some potential dangers from people who message hundreds in a day, especially when you mention that some are not concerned or will not disclose what diseases they may have. It might broaden your topic too much, but I think there could be a dark side to what is opening up the gay hookup scene in a good way for so many men.

  5. Phil Delrosario says:

    This is really cool stuff and and I’m really excited that you’re having a great time acquiring primary research. From the looks of it, you’ll have a massive amount of data and stats. If you really can compile all this data into some kind of organized graph or chart that makes an interesting point, it’ll make a powerful argument, especially since it came from such a direct source. Keep up the good work and be sure to supplement this all with some nice academic grounding to give your argument an effective punch.

  6. Melissa Sussmann says:

    wow – this sounds really interesting! Just make sure you don’t attract any creepers….

    Anonymity is such a big part of why people act the way they do and say the things they do online. Have you seen http://www.postsecret.com/ ? Christine told me about it when I thought I would do a project on anonymity. Its really fascinating what people will put online simply because they are anonymous. Its a fascinating way of releasing tension in one’s life. You expose a deep, dark secret to the world….but you don’t post your name!

  7. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

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