Grindr has been the bane of my gay existence for the better part of five years now, and I'm still no closer to finding true and lasting love than I was when I first downloaded the app in 2012. Sure, I've gotten some good kisses out of it, but I've yet to make it past date number three with anyone I first spotted on the Grindr grid.
What do I expect from a hook-up/sex app, right? Well, despite its reputation as being all about scoring, Grindr, which turns eight on March 25, can be whatever you want it to be. In the last half decade, at least two of my friends met their partners on Grindr. One married his grid match last year, offering hope to Grindr romantics everywhere. (That's right, we do exist.)
But here's the thing about finding love on Grindr: What are you going to tell your friends and family – your future kids and grandkids? Do you want them to know that you met your Mr. Right on a grid where everything depends on physical beauty? Well, consider this: Is love at first sight on the dance floor while you're under the influence of myriad legal and/or illegal substances preferable to lust at first sight while you're staring at your phone stone cold sober?
God knows I've been a vocal Grindr critic in the past, but come to think of it, my scoring card was just as unstellar pre-Grindr. Yes, I've probably encountered as many jerks in the last five years as I did in the two previous decades, but my worst experiences with gay men (including one at DJ Station in Bangkok who grabbed my hand and put it on his exposed penis) are still ones that happened with men I met offline.
On the downside, gay romance is on life support in the age of Grindr. Dating is dead, and the art of conversation is practically lost on a new generation of gays. But is that the work of Grindr, or has the app simply flourished in a community that was already faltering?
Like social media and the internet in general, Grindr encourages time-wasting, discrimination, and cruelty. It can be even more hazardous to one's self-esteem than offline dating. Many guys log on with a virtual shopping list, posting ridiculously high demands (be this, be that, be everything) that are nearly impossible to meet. For all the flirting and aimless, mindless chit chat that goes on, many users still end up sleeping alone.
So why deal with all of those headless torsos then? Well, as they say in the gym (which, incidentally, is right behind the bathroom and just ahead of elevators as the number-one location for the all-important profile pic), no pain, no gain. And speaking of gains...
If you're living in the middle of nowhere, Grindr puts you in the love/lust game.
It's easy for big-city gays to scoff at Grindr. They've got options. But for guys living in smaller towns where rainbow flags aren't exactly blowing in the wind, Grindr can be like a lifeline to fellow gays. Who needs Friday night at the Abbey in Los Angeles when you've got the grid?
Smug, judgmental urbanites can look down on grid-selecting all they want, but on a night out at the hottest bar or club in the big city, they're likely to see many of the same faces they'd see lurking on Grindr. If you somehow manage to track down a guy who isn't on at least one hook-up/dating app, he probably uses a flip phone.
Grindr makes travel more gay-friendly.
As gay bars continue to disappear or merge into more "mixed" joints, Grindr has become the go-to way for gay men to connect with other gay men when they arrive in a new city. And with Fake GPS, an app that can put you on any Grindr grid in the world, it's possible to plan your entire hook-up schedule well before take-off.
You get to the deal-breakers more quickly.
It can take several dates, if not months, or years, to discover that you've been keeping company with a racist, ageist jerk who doesn't know the different between "your" and "you're." Thanks to Grindr's "About Me" section, if the above strikes apply to a suitor, he'll probably strike out before the first date.
Grindr promotes truth-telling.
First, a caveat: Fake/old profiles pictures and fictional ages are unavoidable, as are dreaded "catfish" profiles. But for all the fakery going on, and for better or (usually) for worse, Grindr seems to truly bring out the real in many of the guys who use it. It's a place where they can be honest about their fetishes, their obsession with "hung," and various other assorted biases of sexual attraction that one wouldn't normally reveal to a stranger offline.
Before Grindr, when most hook-ups happened in bars and clubs, many guys were having sex before ever discussing it. With Grindr, mystery is pretty much history. We often learn a potential hook-up's name only after he's revealed his favored sex position, and guys are more likely to be forthcoming when it comes to "Positive or negative?" than they might be face-to-face. Knowledge is power...and safer sex.
It's easier to ditch a bad match permanently.
I recently went on a date with a guy I met online that started off better than most. I overlooked the fact that he spent most of it talking about his nightmare of an ex because, if nothing else, the ex was at least good entertainment.
But things went frighteningly pear-shaped when the subject turned to the gay community's objectification of black men. As soon as he began whitesplaining racism in a clumsy attempt to parallel my experiences as a gay black man with his past trials and tribulations as a privileged white immigrant in Asia, I knew it was over. Since we'd never exchanged numbers or even surnames, one swift clean block was all it took to ensure I'd never have to hear from him again.
It's a good place to catch the one who almost got away.
It's happened to all of us. We spot an incredibly gorgeous guy while we're out with friends, and for whatever reason, we never muster up the courage to approach him. It's a sad story that's as old as gay bars and clubs, but in the age of Grindr, all is not lost after we go home alone.
There's always the chance that the man of your dreams will pop up when you log on. You can finally say to him what you'd been dying to say to him all night without the threat of face-to-face rejection and without any pressure to be clever. If the mutual attraction is there, a simple "Hi" is all the hunter needs to finally capture the game.
So long last-call desperation!
A gay bar after last call has traditionally been one of the most tragic places one earth. As the lights are about to go up, guys lower their standards considerably as they scour the thinning crowd looking for a last-minute score. It's never been a particularly pretty sight.
But with Grindr, even if you've failed to score on the dance floor or at the bar, who knows what will happen after closing time? We can now trade our wee-hours desperation for hope. This is when Grindr really starts to get good. You probably won't find the next love of your life between three and six in the morning, but the late-night/early morning pickings are considerably less slim than they were pre-Grindr.
It's an endless source of material for a writer.
While I'll readily concede that Grindr will never match the real world for connecting with The One, for those of us who enjoy telling dating stories, we won't find more of them anywhere else. We don't have to go on actual dates to get the stories.
And non-writers can rejoice, too, as Grindr has given the couch potato a new lease on his sex life. If he's up all night to get lucky, he doesn't even have to get dressed for the occasion.