Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Grindr, Illustrated

Happened across this Tumblr today (hat tip: @PlatinumJones), which adds some watercolour artistry to Grindr – the gay men’s dating / sex geolocation app – profile pics. Check it out here. As an aside, I find Grindr and the idea …

Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 10:57


Happened across this Tumblr today (hat tip: @PlatinumJones), which adds some watercolour artistry to Grindr – the gay men’s dating / sex geolocation app – profile pics.

Check it out here.

As an aside, I find Grindr and the idea of geolocation apps of its ilk really interesting. I wonder about the impact it has on people’s behaviour. Does it merely facilitate quick and easy hook-ups or actually encourage them? I interviewed Joe Simkahi, the creator of Grindr, over a year ago - you can read that article here if you have an archive subscription to the Irish Times – shortly after the ‘straight’ counterpart to Grindr, Blendr was launching, and he had big plans and bigger ideas about how geolocation can impact, change and help people’s lives and experiences. Indeed, he met his own boyfriend on Grindr.

While the social impact of Grindr is huge, from facilitating meet-ups in territories less friendly to gay people and where cruising in public is a dangerous sport, to allowing men living in isolated areas to have some semblance of contact with other gay men without upping sticks to a more urban area, there are also negatives, obviously. A lot of anecdotal stuff has been written about how Grindr is impacting on gay bars by removing their necessity as a meeting spot for gay men and hosting customers who spend most of their time staring at the phones. I’m not sure how you can really quantify this impact, and I’m sure people were writing the same stuff when Gaydar launched in the 90s, and anyway, gay men have always been online leaders and influencers when it comes to developing ways in which to find each other more efficiently. Then, like anything online, there are safety concerns, although you can get attacked or assaulted anywhere, right? It’s not the app that’s at fault for that, but the perpetrator, otherwise you might as well be blaming Dublin Bus if someone head-butts you on the 46A, or condemning the existence of footpaths if you get a belt walking down Dame Street. But what’s more interesting to me is the more pervasive addictive aspects of the app, and whether it has actually changed behaviour, or whether it creates a sort of capsule sex life, sourcing sex through one’s phone and completing a (moneyless, obviously) sexual transaction in a neat, short space of time in a very functional and oddly futuristic manner. I’ve spoken to plenty of male gay friends who talk about cutting down on their use of the app and its addictive, compulsive nature.

Obviously I’m not a gay man, so I’ll never really understand the biological and social nuances that guide male gay sexual behaviour, but it’s obvious that the reason Grindr really works is that there is an equilibrium of power. A straight Grindr would never work because (A) straight people have a different mating dance to gay men, and (B) do you really think straight women en masse would risk the dangers of meeting up with anonymous men for sex after seeing a couple of photos and texting a few lines of chatter? It’s for similar reasons that a lesbian Grindr has never taken off. There have been a few attempts with Qrushr and Brenda (worst name ever), but lesbians don’t have a historical culture of cruising in the same way gay men do, and diluting such interactions and exchanges into an app just wouldn’t work. Plus, safety concerns will always be there with an app targeting women. I remember reading in DIVA magazine ages ago that at its initial peak, Qrushr was banning up to 200 accounts a day made by men masquerading as lesbians. So with Grindr, an app where most people behind their profile pictures are who they really say they are, those initial hesitations that stop a technology’s progress just aren’t there.

Further reading
There are already stand-up shows about Grindr addiction.

Here’s an interesting piece by Zach Stafford, where he wonders if Grindr is keeping him single.

I linked to this article about how Grindr has changed Fire Island before.

In 2011, Vanity Fair did a sizable feature on Grindr.

This piece in The Salon decides: “The rise of the app Grindr, for instance, has removed the romantic imperative of meeting new people through shared interests; more pressingly, Facebook and its ilk have obviated the need for gay enclaves at the moment external pressures made such enclaves obsolete, anyhow.”

There are obviously LOADS of articles, essays, personal experiences, news reports etc out there about Grindr, so those above are just a few good ‘uns.