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No more browsing through poorly lit dick pics or expertly worded love letters! After meeting a potential mate at a karaoke bar last weekend, chatting for a few minutes and failing to get a phone before losing him, I found myself genuinely pining for the old service. A few months ago, I would have been able to post a missed connection identifying the location, day and time of our meeting, mention I was interested and regretted not asking for a phone or at least some identifiable characteristic for internet stalking!

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But it was a corner of the internet that was unequivocally practical, sometimes sexy and poetic, and managed to marry the real, geographical world to the digital world in a way that felt like the whole internet was supposed to. Craigslist and other early internet forums offered sexual minorities the same things they offered minorities of all kinds: the knowledge that there are others out there like you, and the tools to connect with them, first online, and maybe in real life too.

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Even before dating sites and location-based apps, queer people became expert at carving out virtual spaces and making them their own. Chat rooms sprung up to address everything from niche sexual fetishes to workplace discrimation.

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It shrinks the overwhelming vastness of the World Wide Web down to your local metropolitan area. But if Craigslist was local, Grindr, which was released inwas hyperlocal. Suddenly, with the aid of the iPhone, guys were within feet, disembodied torsos refreshable with the pull of the thumb.

Who needs expensive drinks and sweaty crowds when you can cut straight to the good stuff with a few taps? Certainly the ways we socialize and trade goods and services have been irreversibly altered by the internet.

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On any given day you could find postings describing encounters brief and friendly or brief and erotic sometimes in vivid detail or lengthy pleas of forgiveness from long-lost loves. The geotags could identify places specific and expected the steam room at the Equinox on West 76th Street or obscure and surprising a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.

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It could even be a guide to the spots around town where gay flirtation seemed most likely to happen. Maybe I should that gym on West 76th Street.

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Before there was an internet, of course, I would probably just return to that karaoke bar more frequently than I otherwise would, and ask the bartenders or the regulars about Michael-in-the-baseball-cap. Maybe I would make it a habit of going out more in general and sparking up more conversations with strangers.

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Life was shorter back then! But before the internet, a gay man my age would probably already be in an unhappy marriage to a woman. So Craigslist personals will just have to be remembered as a perversely wonderful phenomenon that existed in the brief sliver of time when it was possible to believe that the internet could only make us better and could only bring the world closer.

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