The sad state of the gay dating apps scene

Some days ago I encoun­tered an arti­cle which pro­voked a chain of reac­tions in my mind. It was even not an arti­cle, just an amount of sta­tis­tics about the apps that makes their users the most happy/unhappy. And at the top of the unhap­py users you could find Grindr, con­sum­ing 61 min­utes a day of its user base and mak­ing it 77% unhap­py. At a time where there’s a lot of think­ing going about how our social medias appli­ca­tions makes us unhap­py, and the cur­rent state of our gay scene (see this inter­est­ing arti­cle about gay lone­li­ness), those stats are quite appealing.

Let’s not fan­ta­size, Grindr is basi­cal­ly a meat mar­ket. It’s even of one the rea­son where I find the whole debate about those ”no fem, no fat, no asian” as some small detail of it. The whole way this app works rests sole­ly on the phys­i­cal lev­el. Let’s face it, nobody reads your descrip­tion. Even if you craft it very well, even if you invest time on it, even if you have a lot to tell, the way the app is built rests sole­ly on this small square. This cre­ates this end­less sea of tor­sos you can find. For every­one who doesn’t fit in those ”fit” cri­te­rias, Grindr is basi­cal­ly a soul-crush­ing machine in an end­less quest to destroy your self-esteem by forc­ing you to com­pare to stan­dards almost unable to accom­plish for any human being.

On top of that we’re mak­ing it even worse. I get the whole ”an absence of response is a response”, we all faced some per­verts drag­ging us through con­ver­sa­tions about things we didn’t want to do (or even hear about), but let’s face it hon­est­ly : not respond­ing to some­one is just plain­ly rude. Yes some peo­ple can’t take a no, yes some peo­ple can force you, but not answer­ing to a sim­ple ”Hi, how are you?” isn’t an answer, it’s a slap in the face in the most care­less way. And I did it, and we all did, but while the gay scene was sup­posed to be a place where we could all be our­selves, find accep­tance, some­times help, we’re slow­ly trans­form­ing it into a dig­i­tal inhu­man place where if you don’t have those per­fect abs, you’re basi­cal­ly not even worth talk­ing to.

And those apps also rein­force our own self-destruc­tion sys­tem. By feed­ing us with rejec­tion, through those absence of answers, those unre­al­is­tic body expec­ta­tions, we’re bit by bit destroy­ing our own self-esteem. The end result of this whole ecosys­tem? Even when we find our­selves in the real life gay scene, we’re too afraid to approach some­one. So we switch those apps on, hop­ing that this guy who caught our eye will be online, not even dar­ing to talk to him as he’s drink­ing one meter away, crushed as we are by those rejec­tions be expose our­selves on a day-to-day basis. Too many times I had a guy cry­ing on my shoul­der, after a small talk, we’re the only thing I said was that he was beau­ti­ful, that he deserved to be loved. Not even in a flir­ty way, just because it was a fact that need­ed to be stat­ed. But we became so afraid to show our weak­ness­es, fear­ing that those would pro­voke even more rejec­tion that we’re not even capa­ble any­more to com­pli­ment some­one, even a friend.

Our behav­ior on Tinder isn’t that bet­ter. We accu­mu­late match­es like some social score, liv­ing in the worst Black Mirror episode ever. Most of the time we’re not even tak­ing the time to send a mes­sage or answer to those peo­ple we matched with, stuck in a nev­er-end­ing quest, per­suad­ed we can find bet­ter if we only keep swip­ing. At the end of the evening and the begin­ning of the night, we’re stuck alone, swip­ing left or right with­out even start­ing a dis­cus­sion.

The worst part of this gay dig­i­tal ecosys­tem? We’re to blame for it. Yes Grindr and oth­er apps put the focus on our bod­ies instead of our minds, but we are the one skip­ping descrip­tion, avoid­ing dis­cus­sions, destroy­ing human inter­ac­tion in our end­less quest for a fan­ta­sized oth­er half. Day after day, we’re build­ing our own fortress of soli­tude, focus­ing our tired eyes on those small screens. In an era full of sex pos­i­tiv­i­ty, we’re killing human pos­i­tiv­i­ty. And by putting the focus con­stant­ly on sex pos­i­tiv­i­ty, we’re slow­ly for­get­ting any ”love” pos­i­tiv­i­ty.

Obviously this is based on my expe­ri­ence, and some friend expe­ri­ence. For some peo­ple I’m sure that those apps do a lot of good, but I know for a fact that this is also soul crush­ing for a lot of us. But for those who can relate, please take some time to reflect on how we behave on those apps. And thrive to be more human. In an end­less sea of tor­sos, dare to be the heart.

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Simon Vandereecken

Freelance UX Designer living in Brussels (Belgium), with a deep interest into philosophy, personal growth, self improvement, books, music, ... well in many things ! I use this website to write thoughts going through my head as well as ideas, observations and reading notes. Feel free to get in touch ;)