The first rule about Skinbook is you "don't show any skin!" on Skinbook. While, Time Magazine described it as "Facebook for 21st Century Nudists," this is not a network for titillation or voyeurism. No pornographic images nor sleazy comments under users' photos are allowed. Even the headless body shots that are allowed on Twitter are verboten on Skinbook.ning.com, a UK-based Web site that proudly touts itself as the Net's only genuine social network for nudists.
There is even a 'bouncer' of sorts at the Web site's door. Skinbook's 25-year-old co-founder Karl Maddocks. "We try to keep up the quality of membership," says Maddocks. "We get about 200 sign-ups a day, but we only accept about 10% of applicants due to the poor or X-rated quality of most attempts to join."
According to the Time report, "those who don't pass muster will have to be content gazing at the Skinbook fan page on Facebook, which has more than 3300 fans (as of this posting), while their Web site has scaled to 9000 members.
Dissimilar to what you might encounter on a nude beach, Skinbook members aren't all tanned, taut and toned. "I think it's a bit of a counterculture movement against the body-beautiful thing at the moment," Maddocks says of the renewed interest in nudism.
"It's all well and good to look nice, but there's just too much pressure on everyone to be perfect. With guys, if you don't have a six-pack, then you're an ugly loser. For girls, if you don't have fake boobs and a nice butt, then you're a 'fat bitch.' It's pathetic. What we're saying is, Just enjoy being yourself."
Without restrictions such as these, the quality of the members would go down, the site warns. "Please understand that without this fussy screening process our network would become saturated with lurkers and sex pests."
According to the American Association for Nude Recreation, naturist travel is now a $440 million industry, up from $200 million in 1992. So it's no surprise that this summer Skinbook will expand out of the virtual world for the first time and into the real one. In mid-July, an estimated 800 Skinbookers will meet face to face (and cheek to cheek) at the British seaside resort of Brighton for an organized retreat of naked day spas, bare beach barbecues and clothed pub socializing.
A network for nudists! Sure gives a whole new meaning to 'having a little skin in the game!'
With Facebook still challenged with privacy issues, a lot of other niche and paradigm-shifting social networks are launching and worth considering. If interested, check out some of my previous postings: