‘The internet is replacing the mysteries of seduction with socialised surveillance’
potential meet, and this accumulated data creates a social dating hierarchy – a development from the many ‘rate my friends’ sites where amassed data creates a top 100. Down, a new app (formerly called Bang with Friends) matches you ‘with friends of friends by hotness’. Your hotness score is based on the number of people who rate your proi le, or maybe just your pic. There’s a downside to this: the socially challenged, the millions of solitary online users who have permitted total strangers to decide that they are unattractive and unworthy of affection or attention. Your future love life is not in your hands: witness mysinglefriend.com, where your online chums write your dating proi le for you. ‘If you like horror i lms, heated political chat and cosy nights in, then our chum Ali e could be the man of your dreams!’ The allure of the sexual is that it is anti-social, but yet the impossible hybrid of social networking and promiscuity has already happened with sites like Fuckbook and XBiz, where users rate people they want to have – and already have had – sex with. Even swinging sites, formerly bastions of the clandestine, now use peer reviews. ‘Jim is hot and hung, but has problems with halitosis.’
Social network dating is becoming what arranged marriages once were, with algorithms and peer pressure replacing oppressive family structures. All that is required for the fully monitored and rated date to become a reality is for Snapchat to merge with dating and peer-rating sites and to share video feeds and data. It will happen. (Snapchat is currently worth $3 billion and has turned down a merger with Facebook, playing for better offers.)
Thanks to the net, privacy and mystery – the other
essential ingredients for love and lust – are dying out fast. At the far extreme, if you desire an anonymous, secret encounter, there are apps for that: Grindr for gay men, and a vast array of hetero-smartphone variables. Tinder, Blendr and Swoon all use GPS to hook you up with ‘availables’ in your locality. Such apps l ourish among those with secret IDs, the promiscuous, the curious and the adulterous, but their days are numbered as governments move towards banning the use of fake IDs. Anyway, since these apps function through GPS, your every move is being mapped, possibly by the NSA and the CIA. Witness the telling tale of the man who used a site like Grindr and had accidentally permitted his social media sites to link into it, so every time he went cruising for outdoor sex it was announced on Facebook and Twitter. ‘Terry is in Rouken Glen Park.’ Data which then found its way into the hands of his partner, his employers and the police. Love and lust die when everything is transparent. The internet is replacing the mysteries of seduction with socialised surveillance. So what is left for the arts of amour in the age of Big Data, now that we get everything we want at the touch of a button and share ourselves so publicly that our inner lives cease to exist? There is one radical solution that might yet save us, one that is unthinkable in an era in which we believe technological progress is the only answer: become a Luddite in the name of love – turn off your smartphone, stupid.
Ewan Morrison is the author of the novel Swung, the i lm adaptation of which, directed by Colin Kennedy, is currently in production with Sigma Films.
23 Jan–20 Feb 2014 THE LIST 9