RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

Mobile Online Dating Apps Get Local -- And a Little Creepy

Posted by Alex Pearlman  October 2, 2011 06:29 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

onlinedating.jpgAccording to research conducted by, one in five new relationships begins with an online connection.

“Of course everyone is online dating,” said “Not-a-Ninja,” who would only reveal his name as Cz. “All we do is go to work and then go out drinking with our friends, and if you haven’t met someone that way, you’re not going to meet anyone.”

Back when the Internet was born, online dating may have been just one step up from strangers in AOL chatrooms asking your A/S/L. But since post-grad life in a major city is rather un-social, online dating has gone from creepy to commonplace.

Until now.

Thanks to mobile apps like Blendr, StreetSpark, Loopt Mix, How About We, OkCupid’s new “Locals” feature, keeping up with online dating is as simple as updating a Facebook status. And that may be just the problem. Instead of winking, poking, and messaging people from the comfort and security of your bedroom, the matches that pop up on your phone may be the creepy guy sitting in the coffee shop corner reading yesterday’s Globe. Or the horny broseph. Or (hopefully) the guy that always bikes by you on your nighttime runs. All these people have a semi-vague idea of where you live, work, and play because you’re this little, high-rated dot on a map on their phone.

And that could possibly open up a whole new can of online-dating awkwardness. There’s supposed to be an air of serendipity in knowing that there’s a person (sadly, not John Cusack) that’s perfect for you just around the corner if only you reach out. But do location-based dating apps really make one feel romantic?  Cz described an interaction with a potential match via a mobile app in one word: “Terrible.”

“You have to go about it like real life and talk to this person. Except it’s like walking up to a person and saying, ‘Hey, we both wear socks,’ and then you figure out there are some terrible people that also wear socks,” he said.

Serendipity? I say not. And I’m not the only one saying “no” to smartphone dating. Although the majority of the people I interviewed have successfully found relationships online and have no problem admitting it, all but one were adamant about the creep factor.

“I think it’s strange to broadcast your whereabouts to everyone on the Internet,” said 24-year-old Somerville resident Audrey. “It’s different if you’re cultivating a public persona for work...[but] if I want people to know where I am, I email them, or text them, or call them.”

But location-based dating does offer its benefits. “We live in a mobile society, so it’s only natural that digital dating would be accessible from the palm of your hand, too,” said Laurie Davis, founder of (the proof of her knowledge and success is in the pudding: She met her current beau, @UrWingMan, via Twitter) and part-time Boston resident. “Location-based dating means you can meet your next suitor while you’re on the go.”

Location-based online dating apps are a relatively new innovation, so for right now, those apps are where online dating was in the age of AOL (read: just barely existent and uber creepy). But if you’re curious to try out your phone as a dating tool beyond suggestive texts and pics, Davis suggests staying safe by approaching these apps the same way you approach any other social media tool:

  • “Read the fine print when you’re signing up,” Davis said. “Knowing what you’re opting into makes the experience better.”
  • “Be aware of announcing your whereabouts,” she said. “There’s nothing more awkward than having your crush show up when you’re on a date because he happened to be nearby and saw your check-in.”
  • “For location-based dating apps, log out when you’re done flirting,” Davis said. “This means you’ll be accessible to singles when you’re primped and out seeking fun, rather than when you’re in your PJs grabbing milk at the grocery store.”
  • “Selectively friend,” she said. “If you’re using a check-in-based app for personal use, only friend those you know in real life. Otherwise, randoms can take note of your local hangs and bump into you 'by accident.'”

Some apps also have safety features built in. Blendr lets users adjust settings to hold back information and offers a “location toggle” to fudge the accuracy of location mapping. StreetSpark won’t reveal your exact location unless both parties agree to “ignite.” And based on anecdotal evidence, the OKCupid “Locals” feature will most likely just find you a match in the same (often far-reaching) ZIP code.

As always, approach online dating like real-life dating: “If you see someone you like on Foursquare, the best approach is to engage them online first by commenting on a check-in or two,” said Davis. “If they write back and begin a discussion or comment; all signals are go. To transition, try setting up a mutual meeting when you’re both out with friends in nearby locales. Or make the move to a social platform where you can chat in private and get more personal.”

Maybe serendipity is really only a notification away.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Next Great Generation on Sept. 22.

Photo by Cali4beach (Flickr)

By Valeria Villarroel -- Recent college grad and new employee who's media-obsessed. Straddling the line between low-tech and new-tech. Writer. Personality. Fangirl. I love thinking about and debating Brit pop, media, politics, and social issues. I have a lot of things to say and probably not enough words to say it. Find me on Twitter @ItsValerious.

Want more TNGG? Send us an email. Go to our main site. Follow us on Twitter @nextgreatgen. Like us on Facebook. And subscribe to our newsletter!

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
  • E-mail
  • E-mail this article

    Invalid E-mail address
    Invalid E-mail address

    Sending your article

    Your article has been sent.


About the author

TNGG Boston is part of an online magazine written by 18 to 27-year-olds about growing up in the information age. It's an experiment in crowdsourced journalism, a mixture of blogging, More »
Contact TNGG:
Read more from TNGG at
Email TNGG:
Follow TNGG on Twitter @nextgreatgen

NextGreatGen on Twitter

    waiting for twitterWaiting for to feed in the latest ...

Browse this blog

by category