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Cuddling a Stranger: An App Too Far?

29/09/2014 14:48 BST | Updated 28/11/2014 10:59 GMT

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(Photo: click2houston.com)

Ah, who doesn't love a social media trend? Especially when it gives some thought to linguistics. We've recently gone mad for apps designed to help you interact with strangers, incidentally all suffixed with an 'r'. Meet Tinder and Grindr's new, potentially more terrifying cousin, Cuddlr. DUN DUN DUHHH.

Chatting to strangers is nothing new. After all, chat rooms have been around since the 90s. But thanks to apps, we're no longer talking about purely virtual conversations. More, going online to take it offline. Cuddlr is just as physical. Only, as the name suggests, instead of remedying a sexual need, it remedies an instant cuddle need (because we all have those. Right?)

Admittedly, Cuddlr started as a piss-take of its predecessors. But now it's no joke. It's real. The app uses your location to source potential cuddle buddies within walking distance. It also uses photos and your real name, but keeps your gender and age under wraps. Well, if you're so desperate for a hug that you're resorting to an app 'getting it' for you, surely you won't care if your torso is wrapped up by a 20-something student or 60-year-old professor. Like Tinder and Grindr, the app waits for you to both approve before providing you with real-time directions.

That's the part that frightens me. Sure, on some basic level I get the 'need' of the app. It's like those annoying 'free hugs' people in Central London. It's nice to be nice to people and come together as one (quite literally) and not be afraid of one's neighbour. And I understand that sometimes, be it getting the sack or losing your monthly travel card (zones 1-3) on the first day of purchase, you just need a hug to stop you from crumbling. But, and this is my old-fashioned grandma speech coming, these Cuddlr participants could be anyone. Yeah, you can see his face in his pic, a smiley balding man called Dave. But Dave might want to give you more than a cuddle once he has you in his grubby mits. Well, he's already cleverly lured you there under false pretenses. I know, this has all turned a bit sinister. And of course, the same can be said for both Grindr and Tumblr. Except, with those (with the exception of some Tinder cases) you're hoping, looking or open to that kind of interaction.

Founder Charlie Williams said, 'Aside from finding like-minded cuddlers, it's also a way of contributing to a larger discussion about closeness, intimacy, and sexuality.'

Firstly, like-minded cuddlers? So people who just have 'liking hugs' in common? I, as it turns out, love hugs. But I've never wished I was hugging a fellow hug-lover, instead of my hug-intolerant mates. Nor have I ever had an urge to hug the nearest consenting stranger. Usually, even at the worst of times, I can just wait. You know, until I see my mates, or my boyfriend or my family.

The app gets even weirder (possible). You're invited to review your cuddle, which will then be shown on your Cuddlr's profile. Was it warm and hearty? Was it Madonna-esque? (You know, 'like cuddling a piece of gristle' as Guy once said). Or was it just plain bad? That's another thing that gets me. If you bypass the creepy stuff, and see it as just a fun, jolly, good-hearted app, the rating system is it's downfall. Lonely Susan wants to socialise more, and bravely decides to sign up. She gets a bad review. She doesn't get any more matches. NOBODY WANTS TO CUDDLE SUSAN AGAIN. The app has now done the exact opposite of what it has promised in bringing people together.

But what's worse than bad reviews? No reviews. That'll be me. When cuddling is du jour and I have no reviews because I'm late to the party, you guys will be having the last laugh and the best cuddle. Unless you're Susan, of course.