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Reality Check: Dating in an on-line world

Sometimes I wonder how gay men used to meet each other in, say, the 1970’s. Because before the advent of the internet, which brought with it online dating and social networking sites, the next hook-up was a lot more than just a “click-away."

I just got back to work after taking two solid weeks of vacation. While on vacation, I found myself with a bit more time on my hands, and my internet browser frequently directed itself to a number of websites that I usually do not have much time to visit.

Certainly, Facebook has become a daily part of my life. I have written before, that the world’s premier social networking site really could take the place of healthy, social interaction, if one buried themselves behind it too much. It does keep me entertained though, especially while at work, or when friends are at a party or event that I can’t make it to. I was one of the sad souls who did not score tickets to Lady Gaga’s San Diego show, so while moping at home, I was able to read my best friend Ricky’s continued status updates as he provided a great play-by-play of the Gaga-fest.

Then there are those "other" websites that gay men love to frequent, with far different intentions than they typically have when logging on to Facebook (although I realize most people log-on to them simultaneously). I am not going to name any of these sites, but by learning through friends which ones they frequent, there are a lot more than I realized.

As I browsed these websites, reading profiles and looking at pictures, I learned so much more about friends and acquaintances than I ever thought I would know. I learned about their likes, dislikes, height/weight proportions, and even their preferred sexual role. Of course, I was treated (only in some cases, disgusted in others) to fairly explicit photos exposing the most intimate body parts of half of gay San Diego.

Now I am no prude and the information and photos were quite entertaining to me, but it really got me thinking about how relationships, dating, and sex have changed.

Finding a “hook-up” for the night is as easy as a few brief exchanges on the site, usually going something like this (screen names are totally fictitious, so my apologies if one happens to be yours – and the punctuation, grammar, and capitalization errors are intentional):

Boyjock82: Hey
HillcrestMascStud: What up?
Boyjock82: NM, u?
HillcrestMascStud: just chillin. You fem or masc?
Boyjock82: dude, im a total masc top stud, no worries
HillcrestMascStud: cool, nice pics, where you at?
Boyjock82: Thanks, ur pics are hot too… In North Park, u?
HillcrestMascStud: Hillcrest. Wanna come over?
Boyjock82: Yeah, what’s your address? …

And as easy as that, these two young men will likely enjoy a passionate night together and probably never even ask each other’s names. Easy. Hot. Fun. But what is this doing to our interpersonal social skills, self-esteem, and of course, health?

I have friends who frequently “hook-up” with guys they meet online and it is almost like a drug. The excitement of the “hunt” is enticing, fun, and erotic.

The meet-up may not be as great as anticipated, but it does the trick (no pun intended). Unfortunately, it also often leads to loneliness and self-esteem issues. Those moments of passion and physical attention fill a temporary void, but the after effects can be devastating.

As I got wrapped up in this world of online “dating,” I began to realize that I was missing out on important human interaction that can not be replicated by any online service. Online dating (“hook-up”) sites certainly serve a purpose, and I am no stranger to the gay online world, but a nice mix of healthy, human interaction is important.

Please remember to always exercise caution when hanging out in our online version of Hillcrest.