Wow, talk about creepy.

So let me start by saying that I’m not over here discussing the ethical use of information or what greater ramifications there would be if this kind of thing is made illegal. Those are meaningful considerations, but not the heart of the issue.

The real question is why someone out there would create this painfully pathetic, exploitative excuse to meet women in the first place – and, even more importantly, why enough people tried to use it that it became such a big deal.

Come on, people. Really? Are we that socially inept outside of teh interwebz? Have we become so incredibly dependent on some sort of computer-mediated channel of communication that the prospect of talking to someone face-to-face is this scary?

To the extent that I understand how this app worked, it was also possible for girls to find men around them because the app combines data from Foursquare and Facebook. People check in to places on both these things all the time (or get checked in by others) and the majority of us aren’t even aware of how much of our info we make available by doing so. It’s no surprise, really; account and privacy issues are much more complicated than most social networking sites would have us believe, and the settings we see are basically meaningless to anyone who’s not paying real attention. As a result, there was a whole mess of untapped information floating around before Girls Around Me was even thought of (oh, how I love cloud computing) and all these app developers and users did was make use of it.

I can see where someone using this app might come from. Meeting people is hard, and it’s easier to decide where to go if you can see where the girls or guys you’re interested in hang out. Being able to view their Facebook profiles means that you know what each one really looks like and can browse their interests, likes, and everything else they may have put on their page without a second thought. And let’s face it, this helps take some of the pressure off starting a conversation, because you already know that she reads The Economist or he went to ABC University. The cherry on top? You don’t have to feel the slightest bit weird about it because you didn’t do anything except actually look at what he/she has already put on the internet for the world to see.

Yep, this app is pretty awesome…for stalkers, pedophiles, date rapists, and serial killers in particular. Seriously, who does that? Unless you actually are one of the above, there’s no reason to resort to this kind of fuckery. Besides, even things do work out with someone you found from this app, I can promise you that it won’t end well (and oh yes, it will end), because it was doomed from the beginning. That’s because once you know so much information about a person before they’ve even said hello to you, it becomes very, very tempting to turn yourself into someone he/she will like. We already give in to this impulse all the time, even in naturally-formed relationships with a certain degree of mutual disclosure. Even if all you’re trying to do is fake your way through a one-night stand, you’ll end up telling one lie after another until you lose track, slip up, and get rejected by someone who probably wasn’t worth the extensive research in the first place.

And now we’ve arrived at my take on why this app (and others like it that will unavoidably pop up in the future) are here, and why they work. It plays on the basic but deep fear of rejection and lack of self-confidence that so many of us carry around in the back of our minds. Well, tough luck. There are no shortcuts in that neck of the woods, and at best, shit like this only helps avoid addressing all that insecurity. At worst, it’ll cause someone you may care about to think far less of you than you deserve if they find out you fabricated the all-important first meeting with help from the wonderful folks at Girls Around Me. All the success these apps can reasonably be expected to bring is still not going to get you a single centimeter closer to actually fixing any of your issues.

You know what might, though? Walking into a coffee shop and commenting on the weather to someone next to you in line. Some people will refuse to carry on a conversation, and there are thousands of reasons why that could be, but who cares? All you missed out on is some fully pointless jabber about the weather. If you need more of a push, then go get a job in sales. Any employer who’s paying you a base salary will have a vested interest in getting all that fear, awkwardness and hesitation knocked out of your head during training itself. From there, the only difference is what you’re selling.

Of course, I’m willing to bet that there are lots of people out there who really would use this app just to find the most attractive and vulnerable girl/guy in the area and try to pick them up using some cheesy line from How I Met Your Mother. The world has a way of taking care of that type of jerk, so all I’ll say is keep doing what you’re doing, and for god’s sake don’t be dim enough to forget his/her name after you’ve taken the trouble to stalk every last one of their pages.

As for the rest of us, it’s just a matter of being around real people and finding something to talk about. I chose the weather example because chances are you have that in common. Take a class. Compliment someone. Carry a musical instrument. My best bet? If you have the time and are willing to make the commitment, get a dog and take it with you everywhere. It really is that simple, but naturally, app developers like those at Girls Around Me who stand to make a profit from your utter desperation wouldn’t want you to think so. Recognize that, and be smarter than to fall for it.