Take Snapchat: an app with which you send pictures to friends, which self-destruct between one and ten seconds later – a bit like a Spice Girls reunion.
Now, also take ChatRoulette. The premise is that you connect to a video call with a total stranger somewhere on the planet. In practise, it’s a slideshow of grainy five-second clips of clammy, topless men masturbating with disinterested looks on their faces.
Imagine sticking both of these apps in a blender and forcing the lumpy, brown sludge down your throat. The plasmatic gunk you promptly vomit into a pint glass is an app called Fling.
Fling sounds like a dodgy dating app/breeding ground for STIs but don’t be fooled: it’s actually far worse. The premise is simple: you take a picture or text post and ‘fling’ it into the ether. A selection of random Fling users around the world will receive your post and can reply if they want.
I’m sure the creators of Fling were imagining that it would act as a window into the dizzying cacophony of human experience – a tiny snapshot of the lives of real human beings from Argentina to Zambia. The result actually plays out as a challenge to see how many ways men can ask for a picture of an anonymous (and probably underage) girl’s breasts.
When I downloaded Fling I tried my best to push aside my pessimism. When I got my first message I was cautiously excited, wondering what cultural treasure might hide within.
I got this:
Not a great start, but admittedly a drop in the ocean of every image sent over Fling. So I ploughed on through, valiant in my quest for human decency and an interesting image.
Unfortunately the quest went on for far too long, with no goal in sight. Like Lost, it ended with all my genuine intrigue and excitement being converted like-for-like into disillusionment and disappointment. At this point Fling may as well be a dating app after all.
Posts can be broadly split into three categories: men openly asking for boobs, men ‘covertly’ asking for boobs and men posting ‘natural’ images of themselves in bed with, assumedly, only one mammary goal in mind. Rather than increasing my worldly understanding of humanity, Fling crushed any hope I might have that the world is better anywhere else.
The longer I spend on the app, the more selfishly relieved I am of my own Y chromosome. The internet, like weight-training gyms, is so full of sweaty, weird, staring men that I honestly don’t know how you ladies get through the day.
I have a mixture of emotions for Team Fling, the eponymous creators of this grisly experiment. On one hand, I feel pity and sorrow for a team who may have reached into the utopian popcorn tub of connectivity only to grab a barely concealed erection.
However, ultimately I arrive at anger. Even if Team Fling did not know how the app would turn out at the time, they certainly do now. The app has been out for almost a year and is still plagued by this sort of thing:
No matter how charitable I try to be, such an epidemic should not be allowed to exist. The fact that it does, and that Team Fling do not appear to have ever acknowledged this as an issue, is intolerable. If recent stomach-churning scenes from misogyny and trolling’s unhappy marriage, like the #GamerGate fiasco, for example, have highlighted anything to anyone, it is that the internet is full enough with vicious sexism and slimy men trying their best to exploit women. I’d say it is the duty of those who run sites and apps such as Fling to try their best to get rid of it.
If there is any effort on Team Fling’s part to minimize this sordid, harmful bullshit, it must be hidden with the flying pigs and unicorns on a farm in Neverland. All I can think is that hindering a man’s god-given right to make sexually intimidating requests of strangers who may be well under the age of consent is not a great maker of money.
Look at that, Fling. I came into this escapade cautiously optimistic. You crushed that. I’m going to go and read some YouTube Comments to cleanse my soul.
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