A friend of me recently started using an app on his mobile that allows him to contact people that are physically within a certain range of him. The app displays a photo of the guy and a few basic statistics about him. Then if you like what you see and he is close enough to your own location, you can contact him via the chat function. If you don’t see anybody to your liking within a few miles from your own location you can have the app widen the range for you until you do find someone that you might like. Now all this sounds rather dry and impersonal. And to a certain degree it is. But that is also where part of the fun of using these sites comes in.
When he showed me the app I found myself thrilled about it. And we had a lot of fun going through the photos of the guys on there. Laughing and making up stuff about them just from the look of them on the picture. Now this, I think, is one of the initial attractions of these sites. You can look at a person online and scrutinize everything they posted about themselves without having to deal with any repercussions from this, like having to explain why you are ridiculing a person or why you are really attracted to a person. You get to compare people to each other and to yourself, without ever having to talk to them. It feels a bit like being a fly on their wall for a short period of time and finding stuff out about them that in real life you might never get to know unless you really want to find out. You get to be a voyeur in other people’s lives and see and hear stuff about them you might otherwise never get to hear. One question remains though; “what is it about this voyeurism that is so enticing to people?” Is it the fact that people get to see other people’s flaws and mistakes and use those flaws as an excuse to diminish their own flaws and mistakes? Is the real fun of voyeurism hidden in a craving of people to point out other people’s mistakes and flaws and in doing so divert attention in that way from their own flaws and mistakes?