What’s notoriously unstable, an awful shade of orange, and sits in the pocket of many gay, bi, or curious men around the world? An infamous little smartphone application named Grindr. Launched in 2009, the company markets the software as “location based dating,” but has really garnered a reputation for more… casual encounters. What fascinated me most, as both a user of the app and a member of the 20-something gay community, is the embarrassment many of my peers feel about using Grindr. Dating and meeting folks is difficult for people our age, especially when you’re part of an even smaller gay community… so why do some gay men feel so shameful about putting themselves out there?
Senior Daniel Martinez admits, “I do use it somewhat sheepishly… I’m careful about when I use it and where, but curiosity gets the best of me and I sometimes just want to see how close the first guy is to me.” Meanwhile, some like Zachary Kano are more comfortable with Grind-ing. When asked if he was embarrassed about the app he said, “Not at all. I definitely don’t whip it out in the middle of mass or a lecture; however, I don’t hesitate to use it in a coffee shop or park when I feel like it. I’m certainly not the weirdo who hides his iPhone under his jacket to prevent others from seeing a gay hookup application on his screen.”
What seems to be at the center of people’s sentiments towards the app is the fact that some use Grindr for serious dating, while others aren’t confident that they can find love on a medium of focussed on immediate satisfaction. Daniel explained “I originally downloaded the app for the idea of finding a serious date— but soon realized that it’s easier to find the holy grail… It’s funny—almost everybody on there says they’re genuinely looking for quality guys to get coffee or go on a date with…but the reality is that EVERYBODY is on there, to some degree, for the thrill of a hookup at the press of a button.”
Should students be embarrassed for turning to technology to find partners? I don’t think so — let’s acknowledge the reality of the 21st century. It goes back to opinions of online dating in general, whether it detracts from the excitement of meeting that special someone “in real life,” or facilitates stronger connections by allowing people to filter what they’re looking for.
In short, don’t be embarrassed by Grindr. For those still questioning, it allows them to explore without having to totally out themselves, while empowering others to pursue a range of dating options. Whether gay, straight, bi, trans, queer, an ally, or anything in between, being comfortable with one’s sexuality is an important part of growth—there’s no need to be ashamed about it. Daniel Martinez sums it up well: “It’s a fun little gadget… I don’t think guys should be judged for having or using it. I think as long as you’re safe and responsible you should be able to use it whenever you’d like.”