Grindr: “What are you looking for?”

By Cameron Lamont

If you’re gay and you own an iPhone, a Blackberry or an Android then the chances are, you have heard of Grindr. A revolutionary new GPS-based app that promises to, ‘make it easy to discover new people and make new friends’. Male friends that is, as Grindr is only available, at the moment for gay or bisexual men. Being location-based it is able to tell you, to within about fifteen metres, how close you are to another Grindr user.

For those that feel the internet has already given the online generation ample opportunity to avoid speaking to one another in the real world, Grindr takes it a step further, placing its users excitingly close to one another, tempting them towards physical interaction.

I have to admit that the first time I logged onto Grindr and was faced with a grid full of photos showing twenty or so men, less than half a mile away I was quite excited. It was new and sexy and it was unique; offering a radius of attractive local men only a click away. There is something inherently thrilling when chatting to a guy no more than a couple of hundred metres away and this is magnified further when out and about in town or at a club, as the novelty intensifies.

Once the interest in its innovation subsides however, and your heterosexual friends have all but given up on flicking through nearby members with hilarious fascination down at the local bar, what purpose is Grindr able to serve? Do most of its users simply log in the hopes of discovering new people and making new friends, or is there more to it than that?

There undoubtedly are users on Grindr that simply want to find someone and have a chat over a coffee or similar, but there is an intoxicating air of raw sexual energy that seems to permeate through the grid; and is, I would argue, becoming harder to ignore. I would perhaps even go as far to say that the majority of people signed up to the service are using it as some kind of mobile hook-up device.

Grindr takes away that need to put on jeans and tight v-neck tee and head down to the nearest gay bar, or cruising ground; instead by keeping on your pyjamas (or less) and flirting with the man down the street, it is possible to meet up with him at his place or yours within the hour, due to the ‘live’ nature of its interface and therefore it is effectively providing sex-on-tap. A departure from the promise of new friends, but nonetheless a discovery of new people.

Most users appear to be in no doubt about Grindr and of the sexual energy that runs through it. Many profiles list the individual’s wants and desires under their picture, which is preferably (according to most) of their face. Even those not in the mood for a sexual liaison, seem to have to make it clear that this is indeed the case, ‘just looking for chat’, ‘for mates and dates only’ and ‘not into random meets’ tend to be amongst the most popular forms of doing this. People requesting something more interesting than ‘hey’ as a greeting now also seems quite common; has social networking really come to this? How else is one supposed to greet someone, if not in the standard manner?

Conversely Grindr also has a big share of those not afraid to admit that they are cruising its network for sex, some even using names such as ‘NSF now’ or at least specifying this somewhere on their profile; NSF standing for no-strings fun, for those not in the loop. This desire for ‘fun’ often goes hand in hand with a chat that is both sexually-charged and also likely to involve explicit or suggestive pictures being swapped by both parties. A sort of personal pornography perhaps, despite the ‘no underwear’ guidelines imposed on profile pictures.

My experiences with Grindr have been extremely varied, and I can liken them in some ways to my first steps out and about on the gay scene. A place that is all at once, exciting and terrifying and full of both an underlying bitchiness and an unhidden hunt for sexual attraction. It definitely takes a few visits to get used to it, and realise there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had. Grindr is essentially the same; having brought the gay scene into people’s living rooms, coffee shops and workplaces in the form of a mobile app. It offers the opportunity to hide behind a blank profile picture whilst chatting, and maybe even flirting with a man, also giving the somewhat questionable option of seeing the merchandise before you sample it, as it were.

When I first logged on, I felt like fresh meat, I had messages popping up from many different men in the vicinity. In some cases I was flattered, and enjoyed being told how attractive I was, though in other cases I quickly became unsettled by how many offers of fun were being sent my way, as well as unsolicited photographs of genitalia.

I’m aware of the somewhat critical tone that I am setting up to now, and at this point I think that I should mention that the Grindr’s appearance on the gay social networking scene has paved the way for many gay men to meet new people, whereby normally they would be unsure about how to approach the issue of making new friends in a homosexual context. I myself have been lucky enough to meet people that I now regard as friends through the Grindr network and it should be disclosed here too, that we’ve yet to compare pictures of our penises or have an explicitly-themed chat, so I’d say that it is definitely possible for such interactions to take place.

People might also be asking whether Grindr where gay guys go to cruise these days. Possibly, it’s definitely an option, but then cruising has always been an option, long before Grindr appeared on our phones and it maybe even have been more of a problem, before gay men had an alternative way to hook up with one another. Grindr might be full to the brim with sex, but then so are a lot of places, for many the question before a night out on the town is, am I going to get lucky tonight? Grindr has its share of people looking for a ‘quickie’, but then at least they’re not in the town-centre toilets. It also has those looking for enlightening conversation and an entertaining wit and if all else fails; it is greatly amusing for heterosexual friends to peruse.