Are Facebook Dating Applications Heterocentric?

Dating applications on Facebook don’t appeal equally to people of all sexual orientations, according to my own surveys of friends who date members of the same sex (at least 50 percent of the time).

The category killer has nothing to do with Facebook (but perhaps it could some day): Grindr, the mobile phone service that helps gay and bisexual men find each other based on location. It appears that the only nonhetero men who aren’t using Grindr are in monogamous relationships. The others use it to varying degrees, although a fair number seem rather obsessed with the application. I admit that hearing about their adventures with this magnificent application makes feel a certain kind of envy.

While Grindr definitely has more popularity than all of the other dating applications used by gay and bisexual men, I still hear of them using websites like m4m4sex.com and the PlanetOut network of sites; the guys also talk about niche personals for fetishes and that clunky-sounding acronym BDSM.

Now realize that my location in San Francisco, along with the fact that I continue to consider my closest friends to be gay men doubtlessly biases how I’m about to sum up what I see going on here. But nonheterosexual guys sound like some of the most active users of online dating technology — God bless them for it — but I never hear a peep from them about dating applications on Facebook.

As for lesbians and bisexual women, well the latter entitles me to write in the first person and call it like I see it: the word diaspora comes to mind. Applications on and off of Facebook have sluggish activity, and I believe this is only partly due to people not returning to the sites after finding relationships.

Another thing that steers the Sapphic set away from dating websites are incidents of straight guys who try to respond to the ads and pretend they’re lesbians. While one might expect the need for security to add to the appeal of a Facebook personals application, it’s still possible to create fake profiles on the social network and then go into the social dating applications.

So that explains why I don’t feel particularly disappointed after trying Are You Interested and Zoosk this week. The former looks like a bunch of nonheterosexual females might have tried the application at one point and abandoned it. The latter seems to have a few people using it along with folks who’ve moved on.

My beef with Zoosk: Some would call this bi-phobic, but I recognize it as an oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to exclude bisexuals. The application only lets you express attraction to one gender at a time. Are You Interested doesn’t have this problem but it’s completely dead.

Meanwhile, the second I changed my relationship status to single, Facebook started showing me ads for personals sites I hadn’t heard of before. I guess they’re startups. That’s how I came upon an ad declaring “Single Lesbian Looking,” which leads to a page of the same name created by an enterprising woman in Chicago. Not my type, but I admire the bold approach, although some might think that excessive.

Seeing that page really makes me think that Facebook developers — and future business partners — have yet to tap the potential potential for same-sex dating applications on the social network.

I believe that apps specifically focused on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered dates need to crop up on the site. In other words, I don’t think the queer market clicks on one big personals app with a section for straights and another for gays, plus some overlapping space for bisexuals. I believe that existing dating websites for nonheteros, like PlanetOut, could tap the social network for new members.

A successful niche dating app for nonheterosexuals — someone ought to create one for the fetish and BDSM community too — should have greater privacy than the average Facebook application as the default setting. Like the application doesn’t show up anywhere on your wall, newsfeed and so on unless you go out of your way to set up the software to do just that.

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