Life’s A Grind Baby!
It is no secret that Facebook and Twitter have – in only three short years – transformed the way our society communicates and shares information. Social media and information networks provide so many opportunities for people, businesses and industries to communicate in a cross-platform way. But there are so many other applications and tools at one’s disposal to interact with the rest of the world.
If you have an iPhone (and now a Blackberry!), and you are LGBTQ, chances are good that you have heard about or have Grindr downloaded onto your phone. A geo-social networking application for the gay and bisexual demographic, it essentially uses a smart phone’s GPS to provide the user with the proximity of the closest fellow application users within that phone’s vicinity. Big brother technology at its creepiest, or a stroke of genius by the developers?
The Grindr forum is essentially a societal grand-leveler: old and young, tall and short, stout and thin, muscular and buttery are all locked together side-by-side in a seemingly endless grid of profile squares. The simplicity of the app is the allure: tapping each profile square reveals the photo of the user, age/height/weight information, proximity, and if the user is online. If yes, a chat exchange may ensue in real time. If you don’t see any prospective matches displayed, you need only “load more guys,” a catch phrase that has become a bit of a running joke in many social circles.
Not posting a face photo negates the value of the profile, and there’s a block button to deny access to any time wasters. If you have the app, you are gay or bi. It is assumed. It is the next progression from endlessly scrolling through profile descriptions online. It does seem to support the notion that many do judge a book by its cover, but that is a weak conceit, given the power the tool has to to deliver convenient connections between men who might otherwise be too busy to use other avenues to find and meet men.
Is Grindr just the new technology hook-up mechanism? Perhaps, but like any other technology, it is all in how you use it. The possibilities are seemingly endless. As always, how you portray yourself determines how and with whom you may attract, and nudity is prohibited on Grindr.
Your next pick-up may be just around the corner, but so may your next friend, network colleague, roommate, lover, or life partner.
Michael Thorner tweets at @michaelthorner
[Addendum: My interview in 2012 with Grindr founder and CEO, Joel Simkhai, can be found here.]
This is an expanded version of a column which originally appeared in IN Toronto Magazine, September, 2010 issue.