If you’re gay and have a smartphone, chances are you’re acquainted with Grindr, the cruising social network of choice that helps you find other men near you thanks to the miracle of geolocation.
Available for iOS, Blackberry OS and Android devices, Grindr’s interface is simple and to the point. There are no infinite forms to be filled, no annoying, unnecessary features and certainly no complex navigation menus. You see a cascade of profile photos (arranged to display those users who are closer to you first), you tap on the one you like and you start a conversation.
And despite being welcome by what at first impression seems like an endless parade of headless, naked torsos, Grindr is not just about sex.
Or at least that’s what the company’s vice-president of sales and marketing, Serge Vojkovich, assures during his visit to Buenos Aires, which was recently selected as the best international destination to get married by the app’s users.
“We have tons of stories from people looking for friends, or dates or even a gym partner. We created a technology that allows users to connect with each other based on their physical proximity. We don’t tell people how to use it.”
“In South America, Buenos Aires has been a leader in this matter. It’s no surprise that the city got such a distinction because there is a lot of publicity about it all over the world. They have done a great job putting it out there,” he says in reference to the country’s progressive stance on marriage equality and its efforts to attract a large influx of gay tourists.
Since its creation in 2009, Grindr has grown exponentially, boasting over 4 million users worldwide and positioning itself as a must-have accessory to every gay guy with a Smartphone and earning a place in the universe of gay pop culture. As one journalist suggests, it has become so popular that it is now almost customary to see that glistening yellow light of the application’s splash screen reflected on the faces of dozens of club goers on any given Saturday night.
In certain circles, however, the app has been met with opposition as people blame it for changing the dynamic of gay hook-ups and some have even gone to the extent of accusing it of keeping them trapped in an endless cycle of picture-scrolling and finger-tapping for casual sex, where the only common denominator between two users is physical proximity.
But should we blame Grindr for allegedly curbing the excitement of meeting some random person in a bar without engaging in any previous screening procedures? No. At least no more than we can blame Facebook for the relativization of the term “friendship” or Twitter for the over-compression of information in order to make it fit in 140 characters.
“Grindr is a tool like anything else. If you choose to go to a gay bar, it’s an ice breaker. And it allows people to feel more comfortable to take that next step to go say hello in person,” Gojkovich says when discussing the app’s detractors.
The fact that mating habits in the gay community are changing is not the result of Grindr, but the inherent consequence of massive accessibility to interconnectivity.
And as a plus, Gojkovich adds that the app has actually become a lifeline for those members of the homosexual community living in conservative regions” like the Balkans or the Middle East where gay people are extremely unwelcome, and has been especially helpful for those living in rural areas not featured in mainstream gay dating sites.
Regarding the new version of Grindr, due out “sometime by the end of summer” in the US, Gojkovich says that programmers have rebuilt the app from the ground up. And even though details about it are still under wraps, he mentions two new features expected to enhance your navigation experience: “communities” and “filters.”
“We’re keeping its simplicity but we’re adding new technology into it that will make it run smoother. And on top of that, it will allow you to find the guy you’re looking for faster. We want you to get a result that is more appropriate for what you want,” he concludes.
Now all you have to do is wait.
This article was published on the Buenos Aires Herald on August 29th, 2012.