The world’s first and most successful Internet dating service Match.com was launched in 1995. Since its trailblazing inception (predated only by a handful of dial up date services) it has achieved over 20 million sign ups and Internet dating has exploded all over the World Wide Web.
But as far as virtual dating goes the gay community had it sussed out years before.
Gay men and women had to get savvy early on in regards to social networking. Homosexuality was illegal up until the 1960s. But thanks to the Sexual Offences Act 1967 gay men could declare their sexuality and finally canoodle – if only in private.
Prior to that date however the gay community had no choice but to get very creative in regards to where and how they met publicly. It was challenging; a language, a take on the slang form Polari, was adapted as a subculture code in order for gays to communicate in public without arousing suspicion.
Gay men resorted to meeting in bathhouses or public spaces dubbed Cruising Grounds. Acknowledged by the gay community as safe havens for men to hook up, ‘gay cruising’ as it was dubbed, usually took place in remote spaces like parks, picnic areas and lay-bys, out of the general public’s view.
Of course gay social interaction wasn’t confined to cruising areas only. Private clubs and parties were in full swing long before it became legal. Gay club culture sprung gay dating app ios up commercially everywhere during the 1980s with gay publications already paving the way for gay social interaction from the early seventies.
The subtle and inventive methods gay men utilised to meet one another during the ‘dark ages’ of gay social connectivity was in reality a primitive precursor to what we call social networking today.
It was the advent of gay chat lines in the 90’s however that enabled gay interconnectivity to really take off. Gay men started using gay chat dating services to network with one another. Worldwide.
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and the plethora of online dating sites available to us today weren’t even invented when gay men were connecting globally via gay chat lines.
It was inevitable then that gay dating on the Internet would prove to be an instant hit. Throughout the 90’s gay online social networking flourished to such an extent that its now rare to meet a man without at least one social network profile.
Fast forward to 2010 and it’s gay men who have harnessed GPS technology to create geo-social networking via mobile phones. Gay mobile dating apps are big business and are transforming the online dating industry. At the tap of a button guys can instantly pin point other gay men in their vicinity, and be hooking up within minutes.
Long gone are the days where gay social connections were carried out in veiled ‘secrecy’. However it could be argued that the seeds of social networking as we know it today sprouted from the ingenuity of gays faced with the challenge of connecting their community.