The dating app could be a safe space for LGBT people but racism and aggression prevent that.
Staff Erstwhile Grindr
The first few weeks of college are a whirlwind for every new freshman. Endless parties, tons of new friends, and a chance to break away from whomever you were in High School. It’s a fresh start, a place for reinvention and creativity. For many students, it’s also a chance to explore their sexuality. For many straight students that may mean downloading Tinder or Bumble on to their phones. However, for many gay and bisexual men that exploration is often done through Grindr.
Dating apps, in general, are important to the LGBT+ community for a number of reasons. Firstly, LGBT+ people are estimated to be at most 5-10% of the population. This means that 90-95% of the people that an LGBT+ person might be attracted to of the same gender would be biologically incapable of feeling anything romantic in return. Therefore, Dating Apps (such as Grindr but also Tinder and Bumble with certain settings enabled) serve as a way for LGBT+ people to know conclusively what their options are. In effect, they serves as a “Safe Spaces” for LGBT+ persons to explore their sexuality with like-minded people without the awkwardness or uncomfortability they may face in a non-mobile heterosexual-dominated space. In this sense, dating apps are in fact a boon for LGBT+ individuals. However, the way they are set up and work makes them downright unpleasant for these very same individuals.
LGBT+ people connect with each other through a number of dating apps; Tinder, Bumble, Grindr etc…. As previously mentioned, each of these apps has their own issues. With that being said, Grindr is by far the worst out of the bunch. Firstly, as an app targeted exclusively towards gay and bisexual men its userbase is obviously almost exclusively men. Due to the almost aggressive sexuality that our society dictates men should have, this makes Grindr a very, very aggressive sexual space. In addition, a large portion of the userbase is composed of older men. This would be fine, except that many (not a majority, but certainly a large minority) of these men send messages to college-aged users on this app. These messages usually act for sexual favors or sexual favors in exchange for cash. For example, a typical message from one of these individuals might be “if you blow me, I’ll give you $100.00”. This might be okay to a lot of people, as evidenced by the popularity of sites such as http://www.seekingarrangements.com, however, it is certainly disconcerting to receive messages such as that on an app that is at least in theory similar to services such as Tinder and Bumble. On that point, users can expect to not only receive unwanted virulently sexual messages from older men, but from the general userbase as well. Specifically, many users send pictures of their sexual organs as their opening message to other users. Although apps like Tinder and Bumble can also oftentimes be uncomfortable, especially for women, this level of sexual aggression is unique to Grindr. Furthermore, due to their status as a sexual minority, many white Grindr users feel more comfortable airing their racial preferences for sexual partners on their profile. Specifically, a common phrase in people’s bios on this app is “No Blacks/Asians etc… “ . Again, this sort of active outward racism is rarely found on apps such as Tinder and Bumble. With this being said, why do so many gay and bisexual men continue to use Grindr?
Dating app usage amongst LGBT+ men can be correlated to the poor mental health and various mental illnesses (most commonly anxiety and depression) that many gay and bisexual men suffer from, due to societal pressures. These two, at first glance, relatively unrelated factors can be correlated to each other because dating apps (and social media) in general feed off of people’s insecurities. Specifically, whenever one gets a like on Instagram or a match on Tinder they feel a little happier, at least immediately afterward. People with poor mental health and sense of self, crave this sort of attention. And apps like Grindr, Tinder, and Bumble give this sort of momentary self-esteem boost to people. This is why even though Grindr is such a uniquely disgusting app, it still has such a large and active user base. This is also helped by the fact that there are no other really active gay-friendly dating apps in existence. For these reasons, LGBT+ people still use Grindr in large numbers.
Grindr serves as an outlet and sense of expression for many LGBT+ people, especially those residing in more conservative areas. However, this app has managed to squander its opportunity to provide a safe space for LGBT+ men, and instead serves as an active cesspool of racism and virulently-aggressive male sexuality. With that being said, it is unlikely that LGBT+ men will leave the app en masse due to the addictive nature of social media as well as a lack of alternatives.