Behind the benign veneer of universal amity and mutual back-patting, the online world’s social forums are increasingly becoming a fairground for easy lays. Casual sex seekers on social networking sites can be divided into two categories. The so-out-there-they’ve-got-to-be-kidding variety and the so-subtle-you-actually-mistook-them-for-a-friend breed. The out-there types, mostly male, tend to create an explicit profile or group on, let’s say, Facebook or Orkut with a bare-chested Caucasian woman as the profile picture. Their public “message walls” generally consist of random explicit messages that will, sadly for them, only be read by other men parading as bare-chested women. Their hopes of a woman (who is not a prostitute) actually calling them back on their shamelessly posted mobile numbers are, of course, way off. Nobody is that desperate. Apart from being delusional, the out-there breed is also boring and predictable. Far more interesting is the second breed: the smooth operators who subtly sneak into your life, first online, then offline. They start by spotting you on their friend’s Friends List, and then go on to seemingly harmless moves like commenting on acomment you made on that common friend’s wall. Before you know it, you’re adding them to your Friends List and planning joint parties with them.
Let’s get some insights into how their minds work. “I always look for welcoming eyes,” says Mr Nightlover (26, name changed obviously!), speaking of stalking prey on the net. “Women who make their party pictures accessible to the public are most likely to be interested in a short-term fling,” goes his Newtonian Law of the online mating universe. As pastimes go, finding a worthy bedfellow online is both fun and cheap: the hours spent speculating on whether the typical shadowy silhouette hides someone beddable or undateable sure beats spending money on fancy clothes and working the phones to get invited to parties, in the hope that at least one out of 40 women present won’t react to your pheromones with the distaste reserved for dead rats.
With the reach and scale of networking sites, getting instant gratification from the opposite sex is far easier, players say, and less humiliating, than in the real world. Those who prefer anonymity can simply create another profile to sow Friendship requests to random pretties like they would their wild oats. Mr Player, 34, speaks of how he picks one female name of choice every day, then randomly searches profiles in his city with that name. The one to catch his eye gets a prompt request and “poke”. Claiming a success rate of 45 per cent, he says, “A surprising number of women want strings-free fun, as long as you don’t scare them off.” Which is why, for men, the shadi-ness quotient of their profiles must be inversely proportionate to their intent. “Let your ‘About Me’ section say something funny and cute. Always say Friendship in the ‘Looking For’ field. And get as many friends on your list as you can.” These are Ms HoneyB’s tips for men who seek success on social networking. Apparently, a long Friends List has a snowball effect—new women want to join.
In fact, each social site comes with its own advantages. Mr BedRaider, 22, swears by Twitter’s geolocation technology which lets you track the geographic location from where your friend sent the latest “tweet”. He gushes about how when he was in Goa, Twitter helped him serendipitously spot a love interest at a party. Thanks to technology, not only did he follow her to the party, but later, also got lucky with some cheesy spiel about fate bringing them together.
Another growing force in the world of online love is Ning.com, which allows users to build their own network based on specific interests. And from what Mr PeepingTom tells us, in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, it is fast becoming fertile territory for exclusive party groups which, once you get in, offer you an array of pre-party hook-ups. So that the next time you walk into a party, you know just who to walk up to.
That top-ranking social networking sites facilitate meeting and mating is not surprising. What’s shocking, though, is that according to Ms Gaga, 31, these sites are “a chaste, prepubescent version of the real deal”. Speaking on behalf of the LGBT community, she says networking has a whole new meaning in their far more organised world, where sites like Connexion and Pink Sofa tell you about everything, from the best parties to the hottest new talent on the block. Likewise, Mr GayGuy, 28, hails sites like Man Jam and Planet Romeo for enabling his mostly closeted community to mingle across class or professional distinctions. That means that even as you sift through hundreds of fake Bipasha Basu profiles on Facebook in the hope of landing the real one, the gay guy next door is effortlessly weaving his way into the arms of his favourite actor through his easy and approachable gay networking site.
And here’s another shocker: Could you ever imagine that demure Savitri whose parents never allowed her to mingle with boys unless it was a prospective groom is getting more rolls in the hay than naughty, party-going Neeta? Matrimonial websites, believe it or not, work better at delivering casual sex than a beachful of babes. Ask Mr Rocketman, 33, who recently got back from a sexcapade in Goa with a prospective bride his parents shortlisted for him on shaadi.com. “I met the girl and we hit it off on the common ground that neither wanted to get married. So we decided to have a casual fling, since our parents were more than happy to let us meet and ‘get to know each other’ as often as we wanted.”
So why, unbeknownst to those of us who scoff at the idea of arranged marriages, are matrimonial sites becoming an easy way to get an easy lay? Well, according to those in the know, most candidates there, even while succumbing to parental coercion, are desperately clinging on to the last few days of carefree youth. One clear advantage these sites offer is that both photographs and gender are likely to be closer to reality than on other sites. Definitely preferable to a Ramesh Gupta parading as a Karishma on Orkut, just for the kinky chance to talk dirty to anyone more human than his reflection in the bathroom mirror.
There’s more. In the hidden alleys of the “no cover charge” party called the Internet, in a world far away from run-of-the-mill “Friend” requests on mainstream networking sites, casual sex-ers are also engaging in nightly adventures through targeted dating websites, and more interestingly, innocuous-seeming places like social gaming sites (eg: Zapak, where LadyLove, 29, uses racing games to get to men who’ll play the mating game). Cyberspace is a comfortable, faceless, nameless place that is changing gender dynamics. No longer do men have to summon up the courage to trot out a cheesy pick-up line to get the girl. More likely, the woman herself will be “poking” his profile with her picture as proof, urging him to press Enter.
The author is an advertising professional.