.htmlTrying to meet people on MySpace or Facebook is like participating in one of those office gift exchanges: you have no idea what you're going to get. Witness the rise of niche social networks, where hamster enthusiasts, mustache lovers, even lonely farmers can find kindred spirits to commune (and sometimes sleep) with. Want to post photos of yourself in zombie makeup to an appreciative audience? Are you obsessed with making predictions -- about just about anything? Read on to find a site for people just like you.
Who's on it: The proud parents of Fiona McNibbles, Hammin McSquish, and thousands of other over-indulged domestic rodents.
What they do there: Like obsessive childrearers, they compare notes -- on how Hammy Heit always tries to escape, Fatty likes lying in bed with the fan blowing on his face, and Nutmeg enjoys dance music. A FAQ page addresses such puzzlers as "How do I make another hamster friends with mine?"
Interlopers: Gerbil are accepted but merely tolerated. "I'd be surprised if anyone would ever take the time to make Gerbilster," said site creator David Hornbuckle.
Who's on it: A thriving community of eligible farmers, ranchers, and livestock owners. The site bills itself as online dating for people whose lives revolve around blue skies and down-to-earth values, not conference rooms and $4 cups of coffee, with the slogan "City folks just don't get it."
What they do there: Post photos of themselves on tractors and wearing John Deere hats.
Interlopers: About 10 percent of its members are urbanites, referred to as "Country Wannabes" by the site's founder, Jerry Miller.
Who's on it: Members, called Ziibos, are armchair clairvoyants obsessed with predicting the future.
What they do there: Post questions and predictions ("Which country will win the most gold medals at the Beijing Olympics?" or "When will Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie break up?") so other users can vote on the likely outcome. For instance, 45% of Ziibos forecast that The Dark Knight will lead the summer box office.
Interlopers: None. Everyone's ignorant opinions are equally welcome here.
Myrl.com (currently in beta)
Who will be on it: Avatars from virtual worlds like Second Life.
What they'll talk about: Whatever it is that fictional people who inhabit virtual worlds like to talk about. Human users will be able to post profiles for their avatars and recommend cool places they've stumbled upon in metaverses. Somewhat scarily, users build up karma points, and thus a more visible profile on the site, the longer they stay logged on.
Who's on it: Some 1700 zombie-hunters, survivalists, and the undead themselves.
What they do there: Everyone's an amateur George A. Romero on this site, where the exalted art form is a realistic mock photo or radio broadcast documenting an "outbreak." Members share tactical tips in the discussion forum. (For instance: After being bitten by a zombie, the best course of action is go on a rampage, killing as many zombies as possible, before shooting yourself in the head.)
Interlopers: Earlier this month, a nonbeliever was banned for calling the users "losers." One outraged member commented, "In my opinion, we should shun the nonbelievers and send [a zombie] after them."
Spot a Potty
Who's on it: Toilet enthusiasts, a seemingly small constituency. Like many networks on Ning, it's possible that this one is a bit too specialized.
What they do there: Post photographs of their favorite toilets, at home and elsewhere. (Evidently, Disneyland has good ones.) One potty-zealous blogger describes the good eats at a Mexican joint above its bathroom pic, conjuring unfortunate associations.
Interlopers: This implies that people are actually using the site.
My Free Implants
Who's on it: Women 18 and over who can't afford breast implants, and men who want to help them ("benefactors").
What they do: Under-endowed women post sexy photos and profiles to lure silicone sugar daddies, who must pay see pictures and send messages. Abbey, one of the site's many beneficiaries, reached the $10,000 mark in a month. Hatched by a web developer during a bachelor party in Las Vegas, My Free Implants raised over a million dollars for surgical procedures last year.
Interlopers: Women seeking nose jobs. In the beginning, this financing site wasn't limited to implants, but it quickly became clear that men weren't willing to bankroll anything but boobs.
Social Anxiety Friends
Who's on it: Yep, it's a social network for people with social anxiety disorder.
What they do there: Members post blog entries about everyday tragedies, like finally getting up the nerve to go out for pizza only to find that the pizza place isn't open yet (hey, isn't that an Alanis Morissette song?). The goal of this virtual support group is to help its members overcome their disorder, but ironically provides more incentive to stay inside. A huge virtual arcade is especially popular, but the games -- barbwire jump rope, "Cubicle Warfare," and one in which you feed babies to alligators -- are decidedly antisocial.
Interlopers: None. Why would anyone sneak in?
Who's on it: Mustache wearers eager to "revel in the love bestowed upon them by a community of stache aficionados."
What they do there: Divide themselves according the type of stache preferred (Pornstar, Fu Manchu, Dali), and post stache-related videos (check out Stephen Lynch performing the "little tiny moustache" song: "I think you're a Nazi, baby. / You seem a little Third Reich-y, maybe.")
Interlopers: Men who post profiles without pictures. Not only is it impossible to judge their 'stache cred, they are missing the point.
Who's on it: Only applicants deemed beautiful enough by existing members. To gain access, you must submit a few self-portraits (including a full-body shot) and leave them up for three days while those on the inside size you up. (Just one out of ten applicants is accepted.)
What they do there: Date one another as well as help each other find beautiful-people apartments and beautiful-people jobs.
Interlopers: If you're not model material, you can't get in.