All Your Internet Social Networking Is Killing Offline Social Groups

If the march toward equality is the reason social networking site called it quits on gay men, then what happens if we start blaming the rise of online social networking for the fall of offline gay social networks? Because that’s what the Times would have us believe is the reason events like International Bear Rendezvous can no longer survive.

International Bear Rendezvous ended after 17 years. Men’s Associated Exchange ended in 2009 after 21 years. Those groups, like others, blame the rise of the Internet for the fall of their groups. Because we’re all doing our socializing online now, and we don’t need no stinkin’ membership dues. Or something.

Except then there are the crop of social networks that encourage offline meeting. Like Foursquare. Or, yes, even Grindr. And perhaps unlike other subsets of gays, the bears have a whole niche dedicated just to them.

New technologies have usurped that role, sometimes serving remarkably narrow niches. The bear community, for example, has Scruff, an iPhone application that instantly locates others nearby, using GPS. There is also the new Web-based start-up Bearbook, which works like Facebook except that a membership fee allows bears to see each other, uh, bare.

Of course the deterioration of offline social clubs because of the Internet’s possibilities isn’t unique to the gays. But because our community embraced the Internet before so many others — I’m talking about you, AOL chat rooms — because it was the only place for us to talk to others like us, it is interesting to see this very technology now blamed for bringing down the offline networks we’ve built up.

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  • reed

    scruff? really?

  • Nathan

    Yuck, a description of those slovenly, unkempt so called “bears.” Why would someone take so much pride in being fat slobs? Oh, I forgot, its easier to justify laziness than to get off the couch and go for a jog.

  • divkid

    i didn’t think i was into bears but…mmmm that picture…
    every single one of those guys. every goddamn single one of them! i sooo would.
    NOT AT THE SAME TIME! (what do you take me for?)

    from the faces they look more like muscle bears or cubs?.
    definately look smarter than your average old gut bucket bear.

    i find meaty masculine faces so attractive. but i would be put off if they were rocking a GUT.
    but a handsome guy with a lil’ tiny gut, meh, i could live with that — if he was HUUUNG.

  • randy

    C’mon guys. These are some hot fucking bears in these photos! Total WOOF material….I may have to excuse myself to the bathroom……

  • Skyler

    Shut up, Nathan, there is no need to be an asshole (and not all bears are fat).

  • mp

    1. Nathan, I don’t know what you look like on the outside, but you sound absolutely beautiful on the inside. Keep chugging that hater-ade, girl.

    2. I think one of the reasons that bear-specific events and social networks are so popular is that there is a surprisingly huge group of fit, non-bear types who are into beefy hairy guys. Seriously, the chaser population is a significant, growing segment of the bear-centric community.

    3. The founders of have to be high (and think we’re high) to believe that the civil rights movement caused their market to shift and doomed their startup. They just flat-out failed to effectively market to their “Market.” I mean, I give them credit for trying a lot of innovative stuff like leveraging their product off of Facebook Connect, creating a mobile app and adding a social gamification component – that’s all stuff that’s very in vogue right now. But they really focused their marketing of the social network as a place for affluent, metrosexual, cosmopolitan “A” gays (and those who aspire to be them) where they could be sold a bunch of gay-ish premium (read: expensive) products, entertainment and trips. I think a lot of gay dudes perceived that kind of elitist, aspirational BS as anything but “fabulous” and were turned off.

  • Scott Bailey

    Go Bruizr! (formerly Bearbook)


  • Thlayli

    I’m not fat – or hairy – but love the bear community, as there’s less of a chance of running into attitudes like Nathan’s.

  • damo

    oooooh,oooooow oooh,oh miss nathan…dear,are you clutching at your high collard blouse…dear,honestly…dear,you sound so uptight…dear…maybe one should go and have a little rest…or youl have one of your…turns…again wont you dear,lol,lol

  • Jeff

    @Nathan: You sound like the type of guy who stands in a corner of the bar with someone (or a group of someones) who looks exactly like you making fun of people all night, until at last call you end up going home and cruising (does anyone use that site anymore?) to find someone as superficial on the outside and as self-loathing on the inside to hook up with, and when it leaves you wonder to anyone who will listen “Why am I alone?”

  • Daez

    @Nathan: How dare you try to say that all bears are lazy, fat slobs. People are made differently. Some people can eat an entire four course meal and never exercise and still stay thin. Others can eat a hamburger and gain four pounds while working out daily.

    Metabolic rates are the not the same for everyone, and they aren’t even the same for one person over the course of aging.

    However, judging from your attitude, I am quite glad I will never have to worry about meeting you. You are the reason I would rather keep a few extra pounds on and get along with men with actual personalities that don’t feel the need to judge others at every constant turn. The sad thing is that you are representative of the majority of the gay “community.”

  • Daez

    @Jeff: Always did love how people like Nathan stay single forever and can never figure out why they can’t get a relationship when they are so hot. Here, is a little hint Nathan dear, it really doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside if your inside is as ugly as Maggie Gallagher.

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