Looking… For Friends: Naivete and Grindr

I am in my late twenties and I’ve come to the conclusion that Grindr is not for me. I’ve reached this conclusion about five times already. For those of you who don’t know about it, Grindr is a geosocial networking app geared towards gay and bisexual men, designed to help them meet other men in their area. It works by detecting your location and displaying other profiles of men close to you in terms of miles or even feet. Despite its initial networking intentions, Grindr has grown to become an app that facilitates random hookups, solicitation, and casual fun amongst gay men. I’ve downloaded the app about four times before with an average time before deletion of two days. Although not a prude in any way, I’ve never downloaded the app with sexual purposes. As a gay man in a relatively small city, it is difficult to meet other gay men in places other than a club. I refuse to believe every single person on the app is only seeking sex; I believe there has to be more than that. So every time I’ve downloaded the app, I’ve made sure to include my intentions and to be mindful and respectful of others. If only others had thought the same way. Chased away from the app with an inbox full of unsolicited dick pics, rude comments, and people asking if I’m “looking,” last year I swore I was done with the app for good. Yesterday I deleted the app from my phone yet again, but this time, I lasted about two weeks and things went a bit different. Here are my reasons for being on Grindr, what I learned, and why I think Grindr matters.

Why I Downloaded Grindr

I often identify with Tinkerbell in many ways. We both can rock lime green, we have been both called fairies (either as a fact, or as a homophobic comment), and we both widdle away when people deny us their attention. Every time I have downloaded Grindr has been because of boredom or an unbased feeling of neglect from the people around me. This last time in particular, I was having an extremely dull day. After texting my circle of friends (Jorge, Erik, Erick, Juanito, Annie, Saria, Cruzito) and having them all be busy, at work, or inconveniently living in Michigan, I realized I needed more friends. With hesitation, I downloaded the app hoping that if I resisted the urge to delete my profile and stick to being nice and true to my intentions, I’d make at least one or two friends.

Bios Are So 2003

Grindr bios tend to be very generic. Some of them come down to one word descriptions like “looking,” “fuck?,” and apparently vegans tend to use eggplant or peach emojis. I decided to be three things: nice, quirky, and myself. By reading the above bio, you can’t detect an ounce of sex appeal. Like seriously, that bio could’ve been written by Mr. Rogers or Ned Flanders. So why did I instantly get messages like this?

The reality is, sexual desire is linked to uninhibited actions. No inhibitions means no time to read bios or get to know people. I didn’t let other people’s inability to read detract from my friend quest. I resisted the urge to delete the app. I often ignored solicitation, or simply answered “no thanks,” in an effort to be considerate of other people’s time.

So it’s a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” situation. Might as well leave your bio blank.

Some People Are Just Garbage 

Fragile egos, fragile masculinity, and toxic behavior are staples of the app. The key to finding friends is to filter negativity and skim to those people who are going to put a smile on your face. If you’re faced with insults, disrespect, or bullying, whatever your response is, will be the right one. There is no proven right or wrong to react to negative people. If you ignore or take the high road, you prove you don’t stoop to their level. If you respond something snappy or cutting, that might bring a certain level of power. I usually choose the latter.

The key is to not let petty behavior affect you. Ugly remarks are a reflection of other’s personality, not yours.

Some People Are Pretty Great

As you read this article, you might think, “damn, did he even meet one good person?” The answer is yes. The outcome was mostly negative, but I did have some interesting conversations, some new Instagram followers, and most importantly, met people I would’ve probably not met otherwise. Keeping an open mind is a wonderful thing. When we stick to looking for people in our particular subsections (otter, twink, bear, jock) we foster exclusivity and promote discrimination amongst an already divisive community. If I only hung out with people with my same interests, my life would be so dull. You’re a bear, he’s a twink, this might be wonderful if you didn’t shrug it off right away.

Why Grindr Matters

After my two week experience with Grindr, I was left slightly horrified, but mostly hopeful. Hopeful for a new generation of gay men who will grow up to have an experience many of our gay ancestors would’ve killed for. Sure, there can be negativity, nastiness, or rudeness, but you can also find that right outside your door. If you stay true to yourself you can meet someone worth your time, whether that might be one hour or one lifetime. But even if you don’t meet anybody, think about the lessons Grindr has taught you. Without people calling me fat or ugly on Grindr, I wouldn’t have been able to love myself the way I do now. Without experiencing the “it’s just my preference” comments, I would’ve never realized how divided we really are as a community and how much work we have ahead of us. But most importantly, without people asking me if I was “looking,” I would’ve never known what I was truly looking for.

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