For gay men active in the age of smartphone, installing Grindr on your phones seems to be a mandatory step to socialize with other gay men, or even meet your potential soulmates. Now in its fifth year and serving more than 5 million active users worldwide, Grindr has been dramatically transforming the dating culture for gay men. According to Vocativ, the app has been downloaded more than 10 million times since its launch in March, 2009. Its unique geolocating feature allows gay men to locate and interact with other peers in their area. It makes hookup or dating more convenient and often times, efficient than ever before.
As a young gay man who only started using this popular app six months ago, I have to say that while Grindr has completely changed my understanding of gay men’s dating culture, it also has me worried about its negative influences on our community as a whole. It’s common to see gay men browsing different profiles on their phone, trying to find the ideal person for a hookup or date. Due to the nature of this app, most profiles will contain either headless torsos or topless hunks in a sexy poses. In a way, Grindr provides a perfect forum for those who enjoy the comfort of secrecy. For the majority of those who use it as a hookup tool, Grindr is a virtual closet where they can have fun while keeping their identities unknown. Silly as I am, I choose to challenge the popular trend by putting a clear picture of me on my Grindr profile, with the subject line clearly announcing my wishful thinking of meeting friends or lifelong partners. I ended up receiving mostly silent responses or even someone telling me that Grindr is not a place for me.
What’s scarier are incidents where gay men were raped, robbed or even severely beaten or killed after meeting strangers found on Grindr. In the case of Dino Dizdarevic, the 25-year-old chemical engineer from Philadelphia who was viciously beaten and later strangled to death by a stranger he met on Grindr. When police found his body, Dizdarevic was already unrecognizable after the brutal assault. Incidents like this send warning signs to gay men, whether they use Grindr or not, about the dangerous nature of the app. With convenience and novelty comes the risk of turning yourself into a potential assailant or killer. While Grindr has benefited those who seek the short-term pleasure of hookups, it somehow leaves a negative impact on regular users like me, who now reconsider alternative options to socialize with other gay men. Fear of falling into traps, gay men might turn back to more traditional and reliable ways of socializing with other gay men. The uncertainty and risk reflect through Grindr’s convenience have planted the seeds of doubt and suspicion into gay men’s dating culture.
But will gay men stop using Grindr eventually? Probably not. The convenience displayed by Grindr has been favored by many loyal users. While risk remains high for active users, I believe self-awareness and caution will convince most of them to keep enjoying Grindr’s connection-making ability. After all, not too many apps can satisfy many of their desires through simply tapping on a profile you like and starting a chat. Over time, a more refined and sophisticated version of geolocating dating app could emerge to bring gay men’s dating culture to another level.
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