By Richard Patrick | @incrediblyrich

Over the last few months, the dating app Tinder has become a great source of entertainment for my straight friends with many an afternoon pub session spent huddled around a tiny screen; snap judgements steering the swipes alongside a brutal running commentary.

For them, the endless conveyor belt of boys is an entirely novel concept and it’s hard not to get caught up in their newfound excitement for disposable dating... were it not for the fact we gays mastered this approach years ago. Spurred on by our constant quest for cock, the gay community has continually adapted technology to meet our needs and once the internet jumped from PC to palm, hooking up became even simpler. We only need to push a button and our button could be pushed within the hour. 

However, mobile dating isn’t the only way we utilise our phones and the boundaries between orange app and blue app are becoming increasingly blurred. Ten years ago, a terrible chat up line would become nothing more than a hilarious anecdote. But a poorly judged online message can now find its way on to various social media outlets within seconds, reaching a far larger audience than the sender had originally anticipated. In most cases these screenshots are fairly harmless; a stream of unanswered messages or a simple case of clumsy flirtation, with the sender’s identity removed to protect them from any humiliation.

This kind of post regularly appears on my timeline and the purposeful anonymity ensures the reader sees humour in the content rather than the embarrassment of the individual. But a growing number of men are disregarding these margins of respect and are posting exchanges which contain usernames and photos, often accompanied by a dedicated hashtag to ensure maximum exposure. It’s the online equivalent of pointing and laughing, then instructing all your friends to point and laugh too. 

Some people are taking this a step further by tweeting naked photos without the consent of the person holding the camera phone. Granted, sending a photo of your cock to someone is a risky move to begin with and it’s reasonable to assume the recipient will show it to at least one of his friends. But posting the photo online in an attempt to shame the sender is another matter entirely as it creates a mob mentality in which followers are encouraged to join the pack and hurl insults at an otherwise innocent third party.

The guy posing in the mirror might not be packing like Fassbender or flexing Hemsworth biceps, but he doesn’t need an unexpected army of squealing avatars to tell him that. He’s just trying to get laid. Sharing his image online and encouraging others to mock is the equivalent of rejecting a guy, then dragging him round the club to ensure everyone laughs at his foolish advances. You wouldn’t dream of such an act in the real world, so why should it be any different online? This act of publishing intimate photos and videos has been dubbed ‘revenge porn’ by the media, and California recently became the second state in the US to ban the practice, with New York now considering similar action. If the UK were to follow suit, the repercussions of posting these screenshots could be far worse than a momentary flurry of tweet-bashing.

This violation of privacy may seem obvious but it also highlights potential problems with photographs most of us would deem quite innocent. My morning commute is shared with a gentleman who alights at Vauxhall; his ruffled hair and immaculate jawline regularly make the carriage swoon and I pray for a signal failure every time he boards. The temptation to share his rugged handsomeness with the tiny people in my phone is often overwhelming, but does the immediacy of technology give me the right to play ‘Hottie or Nottie’? We all leave the house some days feeling like Quasimodo, but how would you feel if someone snapped your hangover and posted it online?

This happened to a friend of mine recently and he was suitably mortified when TubeCrush assigned him an arbitrary score. Another friend asked to be removed from their website after they failed to spot the illegal substance in his hand. It might seem drastically different from sharing naked photos, but without consent we have no idea how harmful it could be to broadcast the face of a stranger to thousands of people via social media. It’s easy to get swept away with the spontaneity of the internet, but the boundaries of common decency exist online just as they do in the real world and only we can decide where to draw those lines. 

“I got arrested for tweeting pic”

How often do you hear ‘Man arrested for trolling star on Twitter’ in the news these days? It’s becoming more and more common. You think to yourself ‘idiot’ and quickly move on. Does it affect your life? Could you make the same mistake? Here’s John’s (not his real name) story...

“I was a Twitter addict, I loved it. I would spend all day on it. But I’m now banned from using it by court order over tweeting a pic of a guy I thought was hot. All sounds innocent, right? Well the pic I tweeted was of his naked arse in my local gym. It was a nice arse and my followers agreed with me, bar one, who reported the picture to my gym. They contacted the police and I was arrested at my workplace for ‘voyeurism’. I have never been so embarrassed in my entire life. I have taken lots of pics and done the whole ‘hottie or nottie’ thing. I never thought about it or what trouble it might bring my way. It was supposed to be a bit of fun between myself and my followers. I forgot that Twitter is an open space and I might as well have posted the picture in Trafalgar Square. I’m now banned from Twitter for six months and got the boot from my gym. I won’t be making that mistake again and you should think twice before you get snap happy with guys you fancy.”

When did it become ok to public shame?

Over the last year or so something sinister has been going on. Public shaming. How many times have you seen gay men taking screenshots of Grindr profiles and posting them on Facebook and Twitter for everyone to point and laugh at the individual? You might think it’s harmless, only a bit of fun, but is it any different from school yard bullying? Remember your school days when the kids would point and laugh at the obvious camp gay one? How is this any different?

We as gay men live in a world where bullying is rife. We have to deal with all sorts of crap our straight friends don’t. You’d think we’d be able to think differently when it comes to online bullying, but it looks like we are no different. Bullying is a massive problem for young gay men and it doesn’t stop after they leave school. It must suck balls to think that after you manage to survive the school system you are thrown into a gay community that will make you feel bad if you don’t look a certain way or act in a manner that it feels comfortable with. 

So what are we asking you to do? Just think twice before you snap a screenshot of someone’s Grindr profile and put it on Facebook or Twitter. That person you are LOLing at is still a human being and deserves respect, no matter how funny or weird you think they look.