THE CONVERGENCE OF NICHE AND MAINSTREAM SOCIAL NETWORKING SERVICES IN GAY MEN’S DIGITAL CULTURE: HOW GENERATION Y USES FACEBOOK TO EXTEND AND ENHANCE THE GAYDAR EXPERIENCE

Elija Marc Cassidy

Abstract


In her early discussions of social networking sites (SNSs) in the context of the rise (and fall) of Friendster, danah boyd (2007) noted gay men’s tendencies to use mainstream social networking services as “gay dating sites”. Being amongst the earliest adopters of Friendster, during its initial growth period, gay identified users in New York perceived gay dating to be the site’s purpose and invited other gay men (boyd, 2007). While Friendster itself did not last, due, among other things, to a crumbling database and large-scale user abandonment, the extension of gay men’s networks into mainstream social networking sites has not abated. When Facebook began achieving popularity in Australia in 2007, for example, it was initially touted amongst some in the gay community as ‘the new Gaydar’ (see, E, 2007); a new addition to the raft of existing SNSs designed specifically for the gay male population.
While any user of Facebook can attest the site is not designed to facilitate gay male interaction, as it was once imagined in some quarters, empirical data has not yet been published which examines the roles mainstream social networking services, such as Facebook, now play in relation to niche networking sites like Gaydar (ww.gaydar.net), and to gay men’s digital culture more broadly. Expanding on the work commenced in this general area by Cooper and Dzara (2010), who examined the possibilities of Facebook for LGBT identity and activism, this paper provides a qualitative beginning to this discussion1.

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