Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Lee Suckling: The lure of finding love by location

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Geo-locating apps allow you to find potential dates where ever you are. Photo / Thinkstock
Geo-locating apps allow you to find potential dates where ever you are. Photo / Thinkstock

It's 2009 and a fresh-off-the-boat Cantabrian has just arrived in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. Lonely on his first night in a rundown apartment block, he lies on his bed and downloads the app 'Grindr' on his iPhone.

He logs on, uploads a profile photo, and scrolls through the faces - and many shirtless torsos - of dozens of guys in his vicinity. He taps on the first: "Brent, 26, looking for friends and fun". He sees Brent's geo-location: 13 metres away. "Are you in my room... already?!", he worries, pondering how close the other apartments are.

Anxious and uncomfortable, he shuts down the app and deletes it. Geo-hook-ups are way too close for his comfort.

Barely 24 years old, that was my first experience with geo-location dating. Five years on, it's not just gay men using geo-locating apps to chat, meet, and find friends (and fun). Now everybody's doing it.

Over the past two weeks in Sochi, the app Tinder (a mobile matchmaker targeting both men and women aged 18-35) has gained increasing popularity in the Olympic Village.

Kiwi Olympian Rebecca Torr tweeted about Tindering for members of the Jamaican bobsled team, while US snowboarder Jamie Anderson told US Weekly: "Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level. It's all athletes... there are some cuties here."

Read more: Love search an Olympic hit

Let's retrace the progression of geo-location dating, for those unaware of how we got here. Online dating used to be à la mode with the popularity of NZDating,, Manhunt and the like. These felt more like mortgage applications than dating opportunities, though - requiring you to fill in elaborate criteria and profile specifications. Circa 2009, mobile-first geo-social applications began to pop up on the iTunes store (and later on Android), the first of which to gain widespread recognition was Grindr - a geo-social app for gay men to meet other men within close proximity.

Grindr founders later launched Blendr, targeted at straight people looking for geo-love.

On the bandwagon jumped OkCupid, Skout, MeetMoi and others.

Facebook-connected Tinder, launched in late 2012, is perhaps the most prevalent geo-social dating app today - even more so now with this month's celebrity endorsement.

Geo-location mobile dating is far simpler than the online dating services that preceded it. It requires just a name, age, photo(s), and as much personal information as you can divulge in two sentences.

It's efficient, too. In Tinder's case, users can browse photos of those nearby, and affirmatively swipe those they're interested in chatting to. If the feeling is mutual, two parties can converse with in-app texts, and, if desired, take things offline from there.

It sounds all fun and games, until someone gets hurt - which, inevitably has happened several times over the historical course of geo-dating. We're not just talking broken hearts via catfishing (using false identities), either; we're literally talking the grave consequences of meeting up with someone you don't really know at all.

The do's and don'ts of geo-location dating are as follows.

Do be creative with your introductory greeting. "Hi" doesn't really entice. Neither does "Nice rack".

Don't make a sexual advance straight away, even if that's what you're looking for.

Do use an honest-but-flattering profile photo of your head and shoulders.

Don't get half-naked in your profile photo. Or use an image of someone that's not you.

Do check your autocorrected text before you send.

Don't trust anyone that can't spell. Notable offenses include the use of 'boi', 'wimmin' and 'sexxxxx'.

Do be wary of multiple account users - you might have to block the same horndog more than once.

Don't use more than one emoji icon per message. Geo-dating is for adults, not Hello Kitty fans.

Do understand profile lingo. Watersports has nothing to do with jet skiing.

Don't get fooled by spambots. No Nigerian princes are out there to woo you, and your $3000 won't unlock their royal fortune.

Do be honest about what kind of love you're looking for.

Don't be bigoted or racist about what you're not looking for. There's a whole website called 'Douchebags of Grindr' dedicated to naming and shaming those who say things like "No Asians" in their profiles.

Do log in at different locations around the city to get a wider pool of potential. You'll get geo-fatigued by exhausting your options if you're only logging in from home and work.

Don't message the same person more than once within a short space of time. Your previous un-responded messages are logged.

Do meet during the daytime in a public place if you take your connection offline.

Don't invite people to your door, even if you've been chatting for weeks. Apply all candy-from-strangers rules.

Do be cautious. If someone looks like they're lying about their age, they probably are.

Don't go looking for a long-term, meaningful relationship - a Tinder hookup is a meet-cute no one wants to tell.

- NZ Herald

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Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Writer Lee Suckling pens his opinionated thoughts every Wednesday, covering issues surrounding Generation Y, New Zealand's gay community, and the ethical dilemmas presented every day to those living in a tech-centric modern world. Outside of the New Zealand Herald, Lee writes for a range of magazines and newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

Read more by Lee Suckling

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