I hadn’t long been a member of Fab.com, the relatively new Facebook-connected social networking site for gay men. I liked it. Sleek, clean and cool, the network was easy to navigate and understand. I just wish it had caught on steam, especially in the Carolinas.

But now, the site is changing. Fab.com writes:

We’ve had a lot of fun building toward that vision and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed and appreciated your experience with us. Your participation and contribution to fab.com has been the core of our popularity.

This past year has been a monumental year for gay rights and acceptance. From the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to court victories over Prop 8, “Born This Way,” the President walking away from the Defense of Marriage Act, and the impact of the It Gets Better Project, this has been an incredible year of progress.

As we reflected on these developments, we realized that all of this progress has diminished the need for a gay-specific social network. We don’t need a gay Facebook or a gay Yelp or a gay Foursquare or a gay Groupon. The original versions are fantastic, and we are becoming more and more integrated into the mainstream.

At the same time, we recognized that one of the aspects of fab that we enjoy the most and that our users are getting great value from — providing great deals on amazing products and services — has little to do with sexual orientation. A great find is a great find and a great deal is a great deal, regardless of who you are.

No need for a gay-specific social network? It’s an interesting thought, and the same concept could be thrown into any scenario: Gay newspapers? Gay TV networks? Gay community centers? Gay bars?

It’s true that LGBT folks are “mainstreaming” more and more. I hate the term, by the way. “Mainstreaming,” urgh — it reminds me of Showtime’s “True Blood” and seems to compare us to vampires. Regardless, I can’t ignore the reality. Though there’s still an awful lot of queer folks who live in places where “mainstreaming” isn’t an option, it’s happening. The trend can be found even in places like Charlotte. While the Queen City isn’t a friend politically or religiously to LGBT people, our Uptown bars, clubs and restaurants are mostly gay and straight, mixed crowds and many openly welcome gay business.

I’m excited to see exactly what Fab.com operators have in mind. After all, I like design as much as I like meeting other gay people. It’ll be interesting see just how they handle going from a gay social network to a “love of design”-driven site. I hope they surprise me.

What to sign up for an early launch/invite, too? Click here: http://fab.com/uo7fdf

(Disclosure: Fab.com will count each person who signs up for an invite through this link. The more people I invite, the earlier I get access to the site, plus some other benefits. The same goes for you once you sign up.)

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Charlotte O’s social media conference

You know the media world has definitively changed when the local daily newspaper announces its hosting a social media conference.

The Charlotte Observer will host their day-long conference on Jan. 23 at Queens University:

Throughout the day, you’ll hear from some of the most forward-thinking social media gurus in the region, including Jeff Elder, Lisa Hoffman, Crystal Dempsey, Scott Hepburn and Jason Silverstein. Observer Editor Rick Thames will deliver the keynote address. Capping it all off will be a panel discussion on “The Next Hot Thing in Social Networking.”

The event is only $30, but there are only 200 spaces open. If you want to go, you’d better register quick. Get more info and register at ObserverSocialMedia.com.

ashtonkutcher

The Southern Voice reports:

ashton_twitterActor Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter this afternoon to tweet his disgust at people who use “gay” and “fag” as insults.

In typical Twitter style, where capitalization and punctuation are optional, Kutcher wrote: “can we just get clear, calling some one ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ is as derogatory as calling someone a ‘nigger’. U look like an idiot when you do it.”

The statement came in an exchange between Kutcher and another user on the popular social networking site, which allows users to communicate in 140-character bursts to those who choose to follow their Twitter feeds.

I have to say, though, it be much, much better if Kutcher was gay, not just gay-friendly. But I’ll take gay-friendly, I guess. Darn it.

No secrets here: my celebrity crush on Ashton ranks just about as high as the one on Adam Brody (here and here) and Josh Hartnett.

An activist and former member of the Soulforce Equality Ride 2008 is claiming homophobia on the part of social networking site eSpin.

[Ed. Note — I have been involved in several Soulforce activities.]

A friend of activist Zak Rittenhouse of Lynchburg, Va., wrote eSpin administrators after “spinning the bottle” on the site and receiving this response:

55 dudes who wrote the Constitution drank 152 bottles of booze at the after party (we really hope they did not play Spin the Bottle with the empties.)

eSpin, primarily popular with teens and young adults, allows users to play the old “spin the bottle” game online and connect with other users.

The friend’s email read:

Dear eSpin,

One of you’re bottle facts when “spinning the bottle” states that you hope none of the men who wrote the constitution played spin the bottle with the “empties.” For a website that is okay with homosexuality and half-supports it, this sounds like a very anti-gay statement. I have saved a picture of the screen on my computer in case I need to email it to you, but I would be very happy if there weren’t comments like this on here because it sounds very anti-gay or homophobic.

Rittenhouse says the response from eSpin administrators was less than enthusiastic:

We’re sorry that you were offended by one of the “bottle facts” on the spin page. We assure you that it was only meant in good fun and doesn’t represent any anti-gay feelings. I mean, think about it. You don’t have to be homophobic to think that an elderly Benjamin Franklin making out with George Washington is gross (especially if you consider the wooden teeth). Thanks, eSPIN.

After more feedback from the friend, eSpin administrators again stated they meant nothing by the comment:

You’re absolutely right. If Benjamin Franklin and George Washington want to make out with each other, it is completely their business and we should stay out of it. (Though they should probably check with Martha first.)

We’ve considered your suggestion and have decided to leave the bottle fact up. If you don’t think that eSPIN is a place where you want to hang out anymore, we regretfully understand.

Rittenhouse and his friend say they’ll be leaving the social networking site. “Then to my regret and the regret of the friends I have spoken with we will be canceling our accounts,” the friend wrote. “I hope that you may eventually see what a disgusting comment this is and I’m sure someone else will be mentioning this on a later date.”

Rittenhouse says social networking sites should be held “accountable for their actions and words.”

He adds, “When it comes to social networking sites they are no different and when it comes to sites that allow LGBT people to be out on them I hold them in higher regard. However when a site makes light of a user’s comment about a homophobic remark on their domain I feel that the social networking site needs to be held accountable for their words and actions or in this case lack there of.”

Read more: eSpin “It’s All In Good Fun” To Make Fun Of Gays