The site construct allows for several things that make them immediate and at the same time safe: Pictures being worth a thousand words, you immediately discover an individual's inclinations through the images they post.
On the creepy side, it's easy to spot the perv because he posts pervy pics (or caches pervy contacts) -- on the discovery side, it's marvelous to discover folks who share your affinities for subject matters, patterns, colors, light -- shared visual interests that would never come up in a "getting to know you" conversation, but are immediately apparent when you browse someone's stream.
One of my favorite contacts, Corydora, posts lovely idyllic images of English country life. She has a unique way of revealing a place that I came to love as a student of English literature -- we got to know each other slowly over time, mostly sharing an interest in green growing things -- and then something strange and wonderful happened.
I posted some old pics from a trip to Honduras, and she sent me an email telling me all about how she used to specialize in Mayan polychrome ceramics, but encountered a bad bout of illness (that hit her after eating lettuce in Honduras, I think) -- after which her doctor warned her that she couldn't tolerate another bout, and probably shouldn't travel to the area again -- cutting her work short.
She hadn't seen my Mayan set, didn't know of my interest in all things Mayan -- it was the image of an traditional oven that triggered the conversation. How strange. How wonderful.
I recently received an email from another Flickrite about another cool association -- ReyGuy, aka Guy Reynolds of the Dallas Morning News, is a recent acquaintance who fast became a favorite given his gorgeous Holga and Holga-like Canon shots:
your grandfather shot was precious. it made me pull some stuff from my archive that I found really interesting. My dad gave me three rolls of old film that was exposed but never processed that he bought at a flea market or antique shop. I had them for 12-15 years sitting on a shelf with some of my antique cameras and just decided to develop them but they were old sizes that haven't been made in some time so I couldn't find reels. I just put developer in a large printing tray and did what I could. Here's a story about the results I did »
Of course, for every Corydora and ReyGuy, there are characters like this one fellow, who I will call only George, who recently got in the habit of sending to me, repeatedly, an invitation to join his "private erotica group". I repeatedly declined until it got to be too much, and I dropped him a FlickrMail (the internal email system that contributes to keeping Flickr safe):
ME: Hi George: You've invited me to join your private erotica group about three times now -- and I've declined three times -- no need to invite me again. thanks much.
GEORGE: I apologize!
ME (who should have just let it be at this point): No worries -- I thought perhaps you had lost track. ;)
GEORGE: No, but I am sorry to have bothered you with it so many times.