More Sex Faster: The Grindr Story - Page 2

By Seth Michael Donsky 04/17/12

A gay hookup app called Grindr is the ultimate cruising tool and a nightmare for sex addicts. Deceptively marketed and wildly popular, it has health officials up in arms—and sounding out of touch.

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Over 3.5 million customers served. photo via

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Grindr casualties with cautionary tales are not hard to find. Brent, a gay man in his mid-30s, who lives in New York's Chelsea (one of the neighborhoods that probably most challenges Grindr’s bandwidth), is a member of SCA, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, a 12-Step recovery group for people with out-of-control sexual issues. He had been out of a long-term relationship for nearly a year without dating when a friend suggested he download Grindr just to check it out.

“I was overwhelmed,” he recalls. “There were so many hot guys online and nearby.” While he only hooked up twice during the week in which he had Grindr on his phone, he became obsessed with the business of trying to hook up almost 24/7. “I only slept in fits and spurts,” he says. “I’d wake up an hour or so after having just finally fallen asleep from exhaustion, and I’d be at it again. I had to see who was online right then and there.”

Brent admits to having been up late on sex sites like Manhunt and even non-sex sites like Facebook or YouTube, “but there was something more insidious, more compelling about this one,” he says, “because there was the tantalizing promise that the guys I was chatting with were right around the corner right now. Plus Grindr went with me, wherever I went. I had it on at work, out with friends, everywhere. It became a full-time obsession.”

"The brick-and-mortar equivalent of Grindr might be a glory hole," says sex-addiction therapist George Collins.

That obsession with having Grindr on all the time leads to what could be the app’s most damning collateral psychological damage: people relying on hookup sites and applications so much that they become a replacement for meeting in reality, as opposed to a supplement or a stage in development.

I was at a dance party in Palm Springs with several friends last New Year's Eve. One of them was frequently on Grindr throughout the weekend, including while we were dancing! I wondered why he couldn’t just meet someone at the party face to face. “It’s more efficient this way,” he said. But he never did meet anyone. I, however, met someone the old-fashioned way, and we hit it off. There’s efficiency for you.

Dr. Joe Kort, a Michigan-based psychotherapist and author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives, says that a growing portion of his gay clients are coming to rely on Grindr to meet—and having to deal with the blowback of the habit. “Gay men are using it in place of meeting in person—especially those with social anxiety,” he says. “It can be addictive since it is so easy and accessible. I am seeing this trend among gay men of all ages, causing even those who do not have social anxiety to become out of the loop socially and finding themselves anxious about trying to meet people in person.”

Gay men have fought long and hard for the right to be open and visible about who we are. As convenient as it may be to reduce meeting to the innuendo of connecting based on thumbnail profiles and GPS proximity, it also seems like a step backward in many important ways.

As innovative as Grindr appears to be, it may, in the end, be nothing more than the same old grind, only far worse. 

Seth Michael Donsky is an award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker and journalist whose work has been featured in the Utne Reader, the New York Press and in Best Sex Writing 2010 (Cleis Press). His journalism was recognized for excellence by the New York Press Association in its 2011 Better Newspaper Contest.

 

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Seth Michael Donsky is an award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker and journalist whose work has been featured in the Utne Reader, the New York Press and in Best Sex Writing 2010 (Cleis Press). His journalism was recognized for excellence by the New York Press Association in its 2011 Better Newspaper Contest. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.