Grind Up on Me

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Grindr is addictive. It has become a worse distraction for me than Facebook. Facebook you hear me! It is as if I don’t already have a thousand other more useful things that command my attention, like writing essays to pass a class for example. But every time my eyes flicker to my iPhone, I can’t help but press that yellow square bubble with a black mask in the center. And I know that I am not the only one with this problem, I have a friend that is actually going through counseling to get himself off Grindr, counseling people!

For those unfamiliar with my love-hate relationship with this app, Grindr is a GPS-based application that allows you to search for guys around your location. When you open the app, Grindr then shows you with a random sampling of guys with their pictures, stats and how far away they are from you in feet. (PS: It bewildering that Manhunt does not have a similar app by now for the iPhone, does anyone know why?)

Now that you know how Grindr works, the reason why it is so addictive is because it is based on random rewards programming that is also found in most Role Playing Games or RPG.

RPGs are a type of video game where you pick a character to assume, usually a knight, mage or in my case a Queen, and explore a large map in search of demons, treasure or in my case fairies. Because the map is so large and you don’t know where the treasure is, you just have to keep wandering around randomly until you chance upon it. It is this idea of chance that has kept so many gamers up into the night because the rewards are indeed placed randomly on the map. So in short the more time you spent playing the game, the higher your chances are of finding gold.

Similarly, Grindr employs the random rewards theory in a way whereby the program only takes a random sampling of guys that are around your area and thus keeping you glued to the screen pressing that load more guys button ( insert your own pun here) or opening it up every time to walk through a new street/city/country in order to try to discover that elusive hottie you might have missed.

So how is this changing the way we socialize as a community? First off, I am no sociologist. So if my theory happens to be way off, someone please smack me and tell me I am wrong. Secondly, I think that as we observe the gay community moving from interacting within bars, to going online to now being on mobile devices, we are able to notice not just a shorten in our attention spans but also an increase in the need for instant gratification.

Mobile applications such as Grindr offer us a way to scroll through huge amount of information in a easy and efficient manner that allows us to access sex very quickly. ( Those that use Grindr to look for a long-term relationship, please exclude yourselves from this part of the conversation) What I assumes this means is that our community is likely to become more sex obsessed as it becomes more easily available to us. These days Grindr may offers us a quickie on our lunch break with the guy next to you at the office.

On the plus side, Grindr is an amazingly useful tool, especially when traveling overseas. Grindr allows you to tap into your geographical location as a means of reaching out to the local community. I have found guys on Grindr while transiting in Dubai, Dubai people! The application also offers gay people a safer way to interact online because you don‘t have to worry about someone peeking at your browsing history on your computer anymore .

Good or bad, Grindr has certainly made an impact on the community. It is unclear what the long-term effects are but I am hoping some queer sociologist finds this an interesting research project. I await the results in lustful anticipation.

In the meantime, I leave you with a little humor that I have distilling from the hours spent trolling the thousands of profiles on Grindr.

1. Happily Partnered. Just Looking.

2. When I was a kid, my favorite thing was a top. Nothing much as changed.

3. Geography does not make us compatible.

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