Signing up for Blendr is like signing up to enter shark-infested waters. Fill in your name, age, sex, sexual orientation and then click the ‘next’ button.
Now wait for the swarm.
Blendr is a social networking tool that uses Global Positioning Software (GPS) to connect users to each other in real-time. “Current social networks only connect users to people and places they already know,” Joel Simkhai, the C.E.O. and creator of the app, says in an email. “Blendr inspires users to discover fresh faces and places.”
Simkhai says that he decided to create Blendr due to requests from women wanting an app like Grindr. Grindr is Simkhai’s widely popular, all-male gay social networking app that he released in 2009. The app has come be to known as the gay hookup app (the Village Voice has called Grindr “The Gay’s Fave Hookup App,” and The Daily Beast calls it “addictive”) and has gained over 2.6 million users worldwide since its release.
Although Simkhai insists that Blendr was not created as a straight hookup app, the question remains, with the fame and success of Grindr, what are straight people going to use Blendr for?
At a glance, the Grindr and Blendr look very similar. User’s profiles on both apps are set up similarly in that they display what a person is “Looking For.” Some profiles say, “Looking For A Relationship,” others say, “Looking For Friends.” Within the first 15 minutes of opening my account on Blendr, I start receiving messages: “Hello gorgeous,” says Larry, 49 and NycDave85, 27, says, “Hey, you’re cute,” although my profile says, “In A Relationship” and “Looking To Chat.”
The difference between the two apps is that many women are not using Blendr to flirt with men. Clay Shirky, expert in new media and professor at New York University, suggests that perhaps the problem with Blendr’s approach lies in gender differences. Grindr works because homosexual flirting in public is taboo, and the app provides a safe place for gay social networking. In straight culture, flirting in public is acceptable and while women overtly flirting with men is seen as normal, men overtly flirting with women comes off as creepy.
“This is something that I’ve actually seen in my students,” Shirky explains. “The men always feel: if only the women knew that they were interested in them then surely they would reciprocate.” Shirky believes that Blendr is tailored towards men’s needs; men who use the app think that Blendr is a free-for-all site for finding potential dates, while women still don’t like strangers coming on to them.
Erin, 26, just recently moved to New York City and got a Blendr to try to make new friends. “I met up with a girl, and she was really nice,” Erin says on Blendr chat. “But it was too weird. There were just a lot of creepy guys trying to hookup with me.”
Laurel, 26, is an employee of the marketing company that works with Blendr. Through Blendr chat, Laurel admits that because of Grindr’s popularity, it is difficult to remove the dating aspect from Blendr. “I’ve also had guys try to flirt with me,” she says. “Men and women like to flirt.”