Friday, August 10, 2012

Grindr and the Death of Romance

It's Saturday Night at 2AM, and you're rolling in from a night out with friends, and suddenly you feel something:  silence and quiet.   After a whole night of socializing, as tired as you are, you're not sure if going to bed and letting your body and liver rest is exactly your cup of tea at the moment.   In fact a cup of tea, bland and watery, is the furthest thing from your mind, as your senses crave something a little spicier.   Imagine you had a magical way to see if you could continue the socializing, the flirting, and the rubbing of elbows without having to leave the comfort of your own bed.   Imagine you had a magical way to see if there were any cute strangers within a 3 mile radius that you could chat with.  Imagine you had a way to flirt from the safety of your mobile device without having to actually truly engage with another human being, where you can get your fill of attention while having the safety net of your bag of potato chips and comfort pants.

Enter: Grindr.

Many may find this post judgmental, and I'm very much okay with that.   We hate being judgmental, we deplore it, society judges us all the time  <brief pause/>  ever been on Grindr?

This is not a rant about Grindr...  Fine, it is a rant about Grindr.  It's a brilliant idea with 1 million served.   It's the ultimate gaydar. But, I think the convenience that such apps provide, can do serious damage not only to individuals but to our community at large.   I've been on there, here and there, installed, uninstalled.  The attention is great, and can be somewhat addictive.   There's a rush you get when someone reaches out and says whispers sweet nothings so softly, that it is completely silent, while the deafening yellow and blue text bubbles that glow brightly against a black background, making your eyes squint in your dark bedroom.  And of course when someone reaches out with something more explicit, your self righteousness kicks in so much so that with an air of self-satisfaction you relish the fact that you're not as much of a pervert as they are, yet for the right kind of guy, you may bend your own rules a little bit and engage in a way your normally wouldn't on the street.

Grindr is killing romance.   It is taking a knife, stabbing romance in the heart, and turning the handle faster than you can click that X button and block that guy who just won't take no for an answer.

Technology is evolving faster than humans are.  Hundreds of people, in your own neighborhood, are now at your fingertips to interact with, to flirt with, and to make connections with.  Not only that, they're available to talk to right now.  Our human capacity isn't as rich as what is available to us to engage with.  We can only handle so much before we can no longer give the best of ourselves to the people we meet.   You can talk with someone, and before you know it you just got messaged by someone else.  You have to make quick decisions about who is worth more to you, at this very moment.  You see unlike meeting people in real life, you don't have eye contact, you don't have the physical presence of the human soul in front of you. You don't have the social expectations to be a decent human being.   In fact, in your reality, you're just sitting there in your comfort pants eating that bag of potato chips, why the hell should you be expected to be decent?

Grindr = Fast Food
When dealing with other humans as digital figures, we become a giant in Lilliput, where the biggest thing in our presence is our own egos among tiny faces that love and hate us.   It is not sharpening our skills, it is not helping us grow, and it is not getting us anywhere near to the kind of intimacy that is fulfilling.   No, I do not think we are just mammals with immediate needs.   I believe we are humans!  At the end of the day we all want and need the same things: to love and to be loved.  We each want respect and care.    Yet ironically many of us will strive to perfect our bodies by avoiding fast food and eating whole and nutritious food, we don't care as much for our psyches that we're regular patrons in the biggest fast food chain of human interactions.  And like fast food, there is a devaluation of the product, i.e. fellow humans, and this value decreases so fast, that such habitual behavior can leave permanent scars.

And yes I'm sure you've met some great connections and even made some friends, and for those who do not know where to start meeting people, this may be the easiest way, but let's be real, how much crap do you have to deal with in order to get there?   I remember seeing someone's caption once "Looking for a reason to delete this app."  People know they don't want to be on there, but feel they don't have a choice.

Oh, but they do.

There are so many ways to make friends in real life, there are so many ways to date, even online that are much more humanizing than some of these quick fixes.  There are community organizations, there are gatherings, parties, church fellowships, volunteer work.  It's the simple act of putting yourself out there and overcoming the fear of connection, where you will be left feeling whole and loved.

For example: http://www.laglc.org/

I may be the odd man out.  I've been told by other conservative gay guys that I need to chill out on my views on these mobile apps, but I'm okay with being a little different here.   We're fighting for gay marriage in our society, and yet at the same time as we want the world to acknowledge our growth, where is the movement to grow from within?   I know it goes hand in hand, but we really need to start focusing on the strive for a more mature and loving way of relating to each other.

Luckily there are many gay men out there who have not fallen into this trap, and yes I call it a trap, because it is one of those things that makes it difficult to let go of.

So kids, don't bother.  It will skew your world view of others.  It will make you forget the good in people.  It will make you devalue intimacy and connection.  When you finally meet that special someone, you may find yourself wanting to hold onto the safety net of a digital singles bar in your front pocket.  Make friends of flesh and blood. You'll be thankful that you did.

Now on a completely different topic, I just turned 30 a few weeks back, and after a small mid-life crisis, I think I'm ready to pull up the blinds and wash my face again (slight exaggeration).  If you have any advice for someone who has just said goodbye to their 20s, please let me know!

It's great to be back here.

4 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more. In my life Grindr actually killed my romance - I was with a great guy who was a great fit personally and culturally, but he just couldn't give up flirting with other guys on Grindr and gay personals websites, day after day. (The first time I caught him I let it slide, after that it was over.) We're so blind to the damage these things do to our souls, so blind we defend our blindness as enlightenment or detachment or harmless browsing...

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    1. Hey there, Anonymous, that really stinks. My heart goes out to you. The question is, how do we figure out early on whether the person we're with is the right match. For those who don't mind, well, then it doesn't matter, but there are enough guys out there who are more old school about the whole thing, how can these guys find other more like minded guys?

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  2. I'm glad I came across this. I'm 24 and have spent about the last year coming out to friends and family (finally). Having no gay/bi male friends, I thought Grindr could help me meet people. Perhaps I only met the wrong kind of people, but in January I met someone where there was definite chemistry. We did the date, followed by cuddling and some playtime; he even texted me the next day and for a few days after that--I took that as a sign he was into me. By February, he flaked and didn't respond to any texts. Having only dated girls in the past, people tell me that this happens all the time with guys. How do straight girls handle that? I've never felt so invalid, like my existence suddenly didn't matter. It was quite hurtful, and it's been on my mind over the last few months, causing me to the delete any and all apps of this nature. I joined a Chicago-based LGBT sports league and a volunteer group instead. Certainly more my preferred method of meeting people! Anyway, nice to relate to someone else's experience. Thanks!

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  3. I couldn't agree more. It is definitely the worst thing that could have happened to the gay community. I so wish I never got it in the first place.

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