Dating applications on smart phones provide a great, convenient way for individuals to find a potential short-term or long-term mate. However, dating apps targeted towards gay men (e.g., Grindr, Jack’d, etc) seem to be used extremely often among gay men; it is difficult to find a single gay guy who has never used these apps. Why might gay men rely on these apps so heavily? There may be more than one reason:
The Difficultly Meeting Gay Men
First, I will mention the primary reason dating apps for gay men (like Grindr) were created: to help gay men locate and contact one another directly. Without Grindr (or the Internet for that matter), gay men would have a much greater difficulty meeting one another. Although many gay men can drive to their local gay bar to meet one another, gay men in smaller towns or areas of the country may not be able to do this as easily.
Let’s keep in mind one particular dating challenge that gay men uniquely face: a limit to their number of dating candidates compared to heterosexuals’ dating candidates. Because gay men make up a smaller portion of the population compared to straight males, it is much less likely for gay men to run into other gay men in person at other establishments (e.g., the grocery store). Additionally, because gay men must also determine whether an attractive guy is gay or straight, this also hinders their confidence to express interest. For example, imagine a gay man going down the aisle in a grocery store and seeing a man they find extremely attractive. The gay man could try to decipher whether the man is gay; however, considering that gay men are roughly 5-10% of the population, it is likely that this man plays on the other team.
Grindr seems to alleviate these challenges for gay men. Not only are gay men able to view and select from a pool of gay men but they are also able to contact them directly. This seems to bypass the problem of 1) distinguishing gay from straight men, and 2) making gay men more accessible among the general population.
Talking to that Hot Guy
Another benefit that gay men take advantage of on dating apps is being able to talk to men that they otherwise would not in person. When a gay man sees a very attractive man on Grindr, they are likely to send him a message with no problem. However, this is not the case in person. If that same attractive guy appears in at gay bar, it is extremely unlikely that this man would be approached in person in a similar way that he is messaged on Grindr. This is most likely due to a confidence factor. Insecurities are likely not worried about on Grindr, whereas it might be a different ball game when meeting them in person.
Let’s face it – gay men (perhaps men in general) are curious individuals, especially when it comes to their potential dating opportunities. Some gay men can’t help but load Grindr to “see who is around” in places or cities where that they have never been before. Additionally, this curiosity may translate into desire for quick hook ups, especially when gay men are away from their hometown. Because many dating apps for gay men function based on proximity, gay men who desire more short-term flings than average could increase their number of sex partners rapidly. Indeed, recent research has suggested that app users may be more sexually active in general1.
Another reason gay men may be less apt to delete applications like Grindr is these applications perpetuate a cycle of dating ambiguity. What do I mean? Well, when gay men end up going on dates with guys that they meet off Grindr, some gay men may worry whether the date went well or not. This anxiety may translate into gay men’s need to line up alternative dating candidates in case their current dating candidate doesn’t pan out. Because Grindr contains a plethora of alternatives for gay men to choose from, it isn’t surprising that gay men are tempted to keep using Grindr even after they go on a few dates with the same guy.
On average, it is hard to find a gay man who has never used a gay dating application like Grindr. Although many gay men pledge to delete Grindr at “some point,” these apps tend to be extremely pervasive in the gay community. The purpose of this post is not to insinuate that Grindr or any other dating application is “bad” – Grindr and other applications that allow gay men to meet one another have their positive qualities (e.g., networking, friendship, etc.). Regardless of the stigma associated with the application, some gay men may “need” to have a go-to source to contact other gay men.
1. Lehmiller, J.J., & loerger, M. (2014) Social Networking Smartphone Applications and Sexual Health Outcomes among Men Who Have Sex with Men. PLoS ONE, 9(1), e86603.