I am an aspiring Counseling Psychologist currently working on a Ph.D. I am interested in various areas including vocational psychology.
"We are literally more comfortable asking to see a guy's chocolate starfish than we are asking him about his goals in life, and this is why Grindr and other apps are a problem."
Grindr is one of the most frequently downloaded Gay Dating Apps, yet we all despise it. Why is that? Why are we constantly moaning and groaning about how much we hate Grindr, yet we can automatically open it from our phones without even looking at the screen. This is because Grindr has changed us all. We now eagerly browse for the day that the infamous jingle will be heard signifying that a headless torso has once again decided to grace us with his, oh wait, just a spam message, damn.
*******While I make reference to Grindr in this Hub, it is safe to assume that most widely used Gay Dating Apps have the same unintentional effects.
Many people do not realize that the apps we use everyday, all day, have a psychological impact on us. So let's explore some possible unintentional effects that Grindr has on our minds.
1. Instant Gratification
Instant gratification, which is the wonderful feeling we get when we want something and get it right away, is a huge issue in today's world. We are hungry, we stop at a fast food restaurant. We are thirsty, we stop at a convenient store. We are bored, play a video game. We have learned that whatever we want can be quickly and easily obtainable. There is a chemical process to this as well. Physically, when things like the above happens, you are rewarded by chemicals that are released into the nucleus accumbens (the reward center of the brain) that then releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel content and happy. This is why instant gratification is so...gratifying.
Applying this to Grindr is simple. You are lonely, you message a sweet guy who wants something long term. You are bored, you message the guy who likes sending pictures of himself. You are horny, and well we have all been there. This is something that Grindr reinforces, that we we can have whatever we want with very little effort. Imagine living in the day where you had to get out of your house and actually put work into picking up a lover. Gross right? Now, psychological reinforcement is pretty strong, but as far as hookups are concerned, you are getting into the physical reinforcement. Sex is rewarding in and of itself. The hormones and neurotransmitters involved in sex give your brain a real treat, because dopamine isn't the only one at that party. This makes the reward that much more attractive, therefore reinforcing the behavior. In the case of Grindr, which is used to locate other guys and mediated the hookup in the first place, that process is now reinforced by the final prize.
Let's say that you don't use Grindr for hookups. Instant gratification is still at play for you. Many people browse Grindr for various reasons, but all of them involve a desire. That desire could be to pass time, to chat, or whatever else is possible on Grindr. You are rewarding yourself by having a number of guys seemingly at your disposal.
Desensitization happens when you grow accustomed to things that aren't typical and are generally not "the norm". As for Grindr, you become desensitized to a number of things that typical people in the general dating world aren't even experiencing. For instance, how many people do you think start off a first encounter by asking how the other person likes to have sex? In the Grindr world, asking if someone is a top or a bottom is generally acceptable behavior, some guys put it on their profile for everyone to see. That leads us to the next issue, how many first encounters take place in the general population in which people ask to see each other's genitals? That is another "normal" thing that happens on Grindr. I've been using Grindr since I was 17 (Legal Age of Consent here in Louisiana), and I have been asked to see my genitals more times than I have been asked about my aspirations in life. Sexually, Grindr has desensitized us as well. If we are used to getting laid whenever we want, that leads to sex being just another thing, instead of it being something special and meaningful, or even it being something that you have to put in work for.
If you doubt that we have been desensitized to these things, use a few examples and tell them to someone who is straight or to someone who hasn't been on a gay dating app. We are literally more comfortable asking to see a guy's chocolate starfish than we are asking him about his goals in life, and this is why Grindr and other apps are a problem.
3. Self-Image Suicide
I call it, "Self-Image Suicide", because while there will always be the "mean gays" in your area, generally people will not put you down because of your looks as much as you will put yourself down. Our biggest enemy is ourselves.
Grindr is much like Facebook in that it is easy to compare yourself to other guys. For instance, you are hanging with your best friend and he is getting a ton of messages from guys you messaged days ago with no reply. This is a self-image killer, because naturally you will want to compare yourself to your friend. "Am I not masculine enough?", "Am I not sexy enough?", "Did my message come off the wrong way?", or even "Why am I so ugly." When in reality, there is really nothing wrong with you, but the other person may have a million reasons not to talk to you based on his own personal things. You actually may seem out of his league to him, you can never know.
What I am trying to show is that Grindr opens up a world of self hate, because you are constantly comparing yourself to others. I am a big guy, so naturally I see headless torsos that ignore me all day long, but reply to my skinny friends all the time. I had to learn to not take it personally, which took tremendous work. The problem isn't that guys have their personal tastes, because I totally understand that not everyone can properly handle all of this sexy. The problem here is the way Grindr has this way of making someone be super harsh to themselves, when it has nothing to do with them.
4. Inadvertent Dependence
Inadvertent Dependence means that you are dependent upon something even though you didn't ever want to become dependent on something. This refers to the problem that comes along when you have a constant pool of guys talking to you. Eventually that can cause issues, because you are going to want that to happen all of the time. So instead of enjoying the contact you do have, you will end up wanting more and more.
If you always have guys messaging you constantly, when that stops you feel a sense of loneliness that wasn't there before you started using that app. That means that there is some dependence on the app for you to not feel lonely, and that is a problem. This is an issue that you can see across dating apps in general. People get used to being constantly stimulated by new people, sexy pictures, and the occasional great conversation, that when it ceases they feel a sense of loss.
This can happen especially when getting into a new relationship. If a guy is so used to constantly being on Grindr, messaging back and forth with countless guys, do you think the affection and attention of one guy will be enough? I would venture to say that for majority of chronic Grindr users, it wouldn't be. This is when the problem arises, and I believe this is the source of such early boredom seen in many gay relationships. We no longer are satisfied by the love from one person and need it from multiple people at a time, and that is where the dependence lies.
There is also this false sense of needing someone else that arises while using the app. I believe this is from seeing others together and dating or seeing others on Grindr looking for love, but never finding it. We get this sense that we need to hurry up and find "the one", instead of living our lives and bettering ourselves.
5. Antisocial Behavior
Last, but not least, Grindr can unintentionally lead to behavior that can be seen as antisocial. This could be applied to smartphone usage in general nowadays as well. After using Grindr for a while, it is not uncommon for you to "grind" everywhere, and what ends up happening is a lack of focus on what is going on around you. When you go out of town for drinks with friends, you will want to constantly check Grindr, because now you are in a new city with new, fresh meat. This will grab your attention away from your friends and focus it on Grindr. Which is rude to them!
But Dylan, they are on their phones too, why can't I be on mine?
See this is why i brought up the smartphone thing in the first place. You see, our generation has a big issue with this, we don't know how to put the phone down and enjoy our time together. This is not a Grindr specific issue, but rather an issue across our generation. We put less emphasis on social activities and more emphasis on social media activities.
Everything from the above is from my personal experience of using the app and what I realized was happening to me and my friends that regularly use the app.
While Grindr and online dating in general are acceptable things today, I fear what they are doing to us psychologically. After all, these apps are meant to help us find love, but are they really doing that?
It is wise to point out that there are a huge number of unintentional effects that these apps have, but I just wrote about 5 of the ones that ran true in my life. I also realize that some people may think that nothing is wrong with using Grindr or other dating apps, but that it is the chronic use of such apps that lead to issues. This may be true, but where is the line between a normal user and a chronic user? Also, the need to justify something is often an unconscious effort to cover up the real issue at hand.
Are there any other unintentional effects of using Grindr and other dating apps that you can think of?
Do you think that Grindr is something great that everyone should use?
Let me know what you think in the comments and let me know if I should talk more about the unintentional effects of things in our daily lives.