Tinder/Grindr: A Culture Born of the New Social Norms of Romance

In a sense, Tinder, the Facebook based dating app, offers a unique opportunity or potential for people to meet individuals they might not ordinarily have the chance to, be it due to distance or nerves. The environment of Tinder, although likely developed with best intentions, seems to embody, if not exacerbate, the shallowness and narcissism that plights our youthful generations, granted the affects of dating apps are not just limited to we “millennials.”  

Delving away from the dating apps for a moment, it is important to discuss the social culture that, as I see, nurtures the beginnings of why the influences of Tinder or Grindr can be damaging. Social media has exploded in the past decade as the means that individuals express themselves and how we are exposed to ideas. Through Instagram (amongst others of course) we see how others live; we crave things that we don’t have and that inevitably translates to not only emulation, but also a need to be desired, which is narcissism. The individual becomes less occupied by personal growth and more attentive to portraying the image of false opulence, of pseudo-independence, and receiving attention. Image is everything.

Now consider how Tinder operates: you make a profile, and the first thing people will see is your pictures. Granted, yes, you can write a short little bio, mutual interests are shown to your profile viewer, but those things are only shown if the viewer cares to look at them. Typically, a person will look at your picture(s) and that is how they determine their interest. It’s interesting that people will judge a stranger based only off of their appearance and consider a hookup, and this relates to my previous points. Projection is more important than actual substance, so it’s important that your pictures are chosen meticulously.

The idea of Tinder is to be quick, that is to say that you make your decision about a person with what information and visuals you have presented to you. If it happens to be a match, then you are able to message the person, and hopefully you can have a meaningful conversation. The thing about Tinder that is exceptional, in my opinion, is this feature that only through a match can someone message you, or visa versa. Alongside the way messaging works, it is also refreshing that because Tinder is connected to a user’s Facebook account, the pictures they are able to use come from their Facebook, which typically (this is not without exceptions of course) means that the pictures they use are tasteful. Without these integral components, random users, void of pictures and clouded by anonymity would be able to message you whenever, with the potential of sending vulgar pictures and messages, and then Tinder wouldn’t be Tinder… it would be Grindr.

For those who are unsure what Grindr is, be it that you have never heard of it or have only heard friends mention it, Grindr is a geolocation dating app that is meant for homosexual or bisexual men. The app displays users profiles, which again are mainly pictures, in a grid based off of proximity. Users are free to message each other or send pictures as they want. As you can imagine the sort of things that would come along with such ability, the app has developed a reputation, and although this dirty connotation is not the total truth, that hasn’t stopped the word “Grindr” from being a sort of vulgarity in itself between my roommates and I.

Grindr is fascinating. The app is really a self-fulfilling prophecy if you hear me out on this. I believe that it’s fair to believe that despite the social strides and expansions of civil liberties that the LGBT+ Community has recently experienced, the stereotypes that gay men are promiscuous and tend to avoid monogamous committed romantic relationships are still strong. Grindr presents the perfect opportunity for anybody arguing this point ample fodder for their position.

I’d like to give a warning that this is where the article’s language may become not only more colloquial, but also vulgar, and for that I apologize.

Any gay man who has ever used Grindr knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the app can be scary. To reiterate, any user is able to send you messages or pictures, unless you block them, and typically users do not put pictures up on their profiles, and if they do, it is even more seldom that the picture would include their actual face. Scrolling down the grid of anonymous users, it’s discouraging, but eventually one is able to find a guy who has a picture, and an actual bio, and you message them. Sooner or later though, a conversation will implode into this:

All screenshots from Corey James Potter

All screenshots from Corey James Potter

It’s completely okay to be on Grindr and know exactly what it is that you want, and even if all that you want out of the app is to have random hookups, than (as long as you have safe practices) that’s okay. I’ll even go as far to say that while having a conversation with somebody it is okay to blatantly ask, “what are you looking for?” It’s important to try to find somebody who is seeking the same thing as you, be it not just a first date, but also maybe a second one, or just a quick fix. Although this can be achieved with simple etiquette, or a basic conversation skill level, the unfortunate reality, which is why Grindr has become so notorious, is the common method by which this is done:

Where it might seem easier to simply go off the pure shock value of these conversations, genuine moments that yours truly has experienced while on the app, and comment on how vulgar, how crazy, and “how gross” they may be, I think that they are a result of something much deeper. If we can return to the aforementioned thoughts on how social media is gradually fostering vanity, a need to fulfill the self above all else, that is how I translate these occurrences. Understanding the fundamentals of the evolving “hookup culture” (if you will humor me to call it that), perhaps it could be argued that the hookup is established from a purely hormonal origin, but that it is only when this natural feeling is connected with social media, and through social media, deconstructs the other partner into a mere object for which the initial individual is able to satisfy themselves.

The critical component of my argument is this deconstruction; there is something ironic about how we have used social media to dehumanize the individual. Further evidence such as the establishment of popular slang on the app, including a feature embedded into the app to have your profile label you as a slang word that describes your physical stature as a gay male (twink, otter, bear, and even daddy to name a few), further function to deconstruct the individual, but in a sexualizing manner. After all, when we are able to have an incredibly basic idea of somebody that is fixed in a manner we find attractive, say one likes his slang classification, than it is the same idea as my previously established idea of being attracted to pure projection, with little to no substance to reinforce.

Frankly, it is difficult to express exactly what there is to take away from these observations. Where the advent of dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr (these being the only two that I have any personal experience with) certainly pose an outstanding possibility for single individuals, they also are working against the serious romantics by dragging the dating app scene into the scourge of a hookup climate.  

Grindr, as a dating app particularly for gay and bisexual men, presents an especially interesting modern context for dating in that, well, it is difficult to date as a gay man. You can’t always be so sure of who is not heterosexual, and the comfort from Grindr is that you know that if a guy is there, he is interested in men (well, unless you’ve got some “masc4masc dL bi discreet NSA str8t acting curious” nonsense going on). Within this respect, I would definitely say that dating apps have helped a lot of people, yet we cannot ignore how social media is transforming society into masses who see the individual as something disposable, something that is convenient for quick satisfaction.