Grindr, Growlr and What-not:
The Modern Day Online Zoo
(Picture: "Ah, the price you have to pay to get laid in Gay Lebanon. The attitudes you have to put up with. The meanness you have to face. The idiocy. The stupidity". Blogger Beirut Boy blogs about 'My Grinder Fails')
By Mo. K.
You’re probably reading this on your brand new smartphone or on that outstanding phone with endless features, which you’ve probably never used. You could also be browsing on your laptop or that pretty iPad or tablet. Regardless of whatever device you’re using, you’re probably quite active on the social media networks and if you’re technologically competent, you are also a frequent user of apps such as Grindr and Growlr; the infamous gay male hook up/meeting apps.
While there are many positives to social media and the apps mentioned above, I have came to a conclusion comprised of one word when describing the gay social media apps: ‘A zoo.’ Yes, you heard me right. ‘A zoo.’ That’s what I like to call the dating scene in our community. You can call it sarcasm; pessimism or even cynicism but I along with many others describe our gay dating scene as a zoo. You might disagree with such a description or you might find it quite inappropriate. However, our scene has been reduced to only one thing, breeding, regardless of the inability of two penises to procreate. Therefore, the apps are quite animalistic in a sense. Let’s not generalize on all animals. Some species still have the decency to stick around each other after that process science calls copulation. While many might react to the previous claim with cheering and screams of ‘YES, FINALLY SOMEONE SAID IT!!!’ others will take offense. The theory proposed here is that a large number of men you find on these apps are generally looking for sex and very few are looking for something stable. While there is nothing wrong with either side, the former seems to be quite dominant; therefore you find the community sulking into this endless aggressive cycle of hook ups rather than attempting to develop relationships.
I am not talking about the bars or that absolutely horrible hook up you had at that party that you’ll never ever speak about to any living soul. I am talking about the apps, or as I like to call them the online ‘lifelines’ we are so heavily dependent on in the hopes of getting that 45 minutes (and really that can be pushing it) hook up. While the minority is there to make friends or dates, but if that’s you, you know you’ve hooked up too using Grindr, or Growlr or whatever app that floats your boat, or even via some websites, prior the apps age, such as Manjam or Gaydar. My apologies for the baby gays; gays who’ve never experienced the website dating scene, you don’t need to visit Manjam, the apps are sufficient now. You most probably did hook up using the apps and of course, you’re still loathing yourself for that horrible mistake of a hook up and still long for that Prince with white shining armor. Keep looking and I wish you the best of luck – Forever alone.
During a recent trip to Jordan, and those trips are not quite often nowadays, I turned on my Grindr and Growlr, and I, of course, put my face picture up (I am from Jordan and people don’t really know me as I don’t live there).
Day 1: I almost smashed my phone into the wall. I was so close to destroying that poor dying Samsung that have met the pavement so many times. I can describe my experience on those apps as a female cat walking in an alley filled with horny male cats (IN FEBRUARY). It wouldn’t shut up. Don’t get me wrong. I love the attention and the flirtation. I enjoy the idea of getting acquainted with new people. However, the big flaw here is with the idea of ‘getting acquainted.’ Being a visitor in the country and a non resident, I am not a target for ‘getting acquainted,’ but more of a ‘let’s breed with that a*** kind of target.’ There were those that fell into utter silence after telling that you’re not into fun, and there were those who thought that by sharing a picture of their penis with you, they would be upping a charming portfolio or as some might describe it: they would expect that your knees will weaken, shaken and you’ll fall down to your knees unable to fight against the power of the penis. As if, you know, we’re all quite desperate for a banana shaped rod, (sigh!). Thank you but my hands will suffice at the moment. Little to my surprise, I slowly lost interest in all those hungry yet not ripe bananas and ignoring the messages started.
Day 2: Relentless, impatient and insistent. Three things that I have never seen in any country in which I have used Grindr. People often know that no reply means not interested. But not in those bananas’ dictionary. As I wake up the next morning, hung over like there is no tomorrow and a deep guilt about that extra mojito I had and the reckless spending at Books@Cafe, my phone is still pinging. I fight the urge of getting up but my curiosity and phone win over the comfort of my pillow. I find tons of messages from the same guys from the day before. From some, even multiple messages repeating the words ‘Hi, How are you?’ and some even had this whole multilingual approach – French was not involved, therefore I cannot utilize a Lebanese metaphor here. Then, of course, there were those who’s English would have put an English professor into a coma upon that usage/wastage of language. Now, I cannot generalize all this upon the entire population of Jordan’s Grindr (and other apps) users, but some cases are just severe, and I guess it applies everywhere, no? However, the words of one man to me on Growlr led me to stop engaging. After I asked him to have a cup of coffee with him. He said ‘I am not interested in relationships, I just want to f*ck.’ There is one thing with this whole incident that made me dislike the lifeline apps scene. Since when does a cup of coffee equates with marriage?
Revelations: I can’t say that this only happens in Jordan. It’s everywhere. It’s even in the Gulf. It’s even more brutal in the Gulf. But living in the Gulf, people often meet up for coffee before a hook up or even dinner. Those who end up hooking up either never see each other again or become friends. Even though, there is this obsession with these zoo-like apps, people still interact face to face in most cases. There is still the zoo factor but there is some form of interactions going that adds a hint of civilization. Of course, this is a generalizing statement and to avoid such statements, it is wiser to state that not all people in the Gulf are like that – there are still many similarities. Or it is perhaps that I am different breed of gay who only sees what they want to see (we are a rainbow after all whose ancestors are unicorns that poop colorful marsh mellows from the clouds). To put it quite frankly, I am the gay who wants to change the stereotype.
Utopia: I don’t describe the Gulf as a utopia and I don’t describe Jordan as such either. At the end of the day, there are striking similarities and differences between both. Therefore, while my knife has had its take on Jordan, I shall then describe an interaction with the online scene here. There is no better epitome than this incident that I have encountered a couple of weeks ago, when I once signed in on Grindr. I received a message from ‘fat man.’ I don’t discriminate when it comes to body types, and it’s not me who named his profile (everyone is beautiful and let’s just keep it there).
Fat man: Hi
Fat man: hru?
Me: I am good, thanks, you?
Fat man: from?
Me: Jordan, you?
Fat man: Qatar
Me: aha! Cool.
Fat man: t or b
Fat man: good
Fat man sent you a picture (It’s a picture of an anaconda)
Me: Read the profile darling. (I have specified in my profile: NO NUDE PICS)
Fat man: Send me your picture now.
Fat man curses at me in a weird gulf accent. I still can’t understand those accents.
Me: thank you.
Fat man: I said send pic now.
My finger slowly hits the BLOCK button and life moved on.
Let’s not forget the creeper who called me a bitch in front of all of my friends on the first day we meet. Mr. A appears at the bar and intrusively hovers around me (we’ve been talking on Growlr for a few days). He demands my presence, even though I planned my festive night with my friends and I have to keep them all in company. I give him a little attention here and there while remaining mostly around my friends. I did like the guy as he seemed quite nice online. Towards the end of the night as I am engaging in a quite serious conversation over a glass of mojito, I feel a hand strongly clutching my elbow and pulling me away. I look and it’s Mr. A. As he pulls away from my crowd, he says: “Come with me bitch, there is an escort by the door and I want to talk to him”. Mr. A is someone who was quite interesting, but praise the lord for alcohol through which the true nature of those who consume it recklessly appears.
You might be loathing me right now for my cutthroat b**** approach in the article, but please keep reading. I often tell friends that everything is subjective, except scientific facts of course. I also say that there is light on the other side of the horizon and that somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. My rant is a product of my hopeless romantic nature.
Given that the apps are quite addictive, and often result in disappointments, there are positive traits that I can’t overlook. Given the nature of the world and how everything is moving to digital, our community has to keep up with the trend. We can’t have ancient queens keep us in the 1980s. Therefore, a smart man, Joel Simkhai, founder of Grindr, 2009, decided to create Grindr – which has become an essential asset to the modern day gay man’s phone. Joel, stated in an interview with PC Mag that he created Grindr because “Gaydar” is unreliable: “As a gay today you don’t know who else is gay oftentimes. And so it’s hard to figure it out, so I’ve always kind of wanted a way to find other guys.”
To paint the picture, let’s picture a world without Grindr or the apps or even the websites (for those who still use them).You will have to socialize in public i.e. face to face with people you’ve never met. You will have to go to that party that has that very slutty crowd, get drunk, or not, and have a one night stand that you probably will not remember very well that next day, a number, or even a date if you’re lucky. You won’t have to share those absolutely horrible shirtless or R-rated pictures, and you won’t have to waste at least two hours every month taking those pictures. You will have to go to social events and actually expose your gayness. In addition, you won’t have the creepy entertaining daily messages that will make you crack up and you won’t have any hot pictures that you can share with your group of friends, so gossip about them on that whatsapp group called ‘Golden Girls.’
“Given that the apps are quite addictive, and often result in disappointments, there are positive traits that I can’t overlook. Given the nature of the world and how everything is moving to digital, our community has to keep up with the trend.”
On a brighter side, these apps do serve our community quite well given the nature of our conservative culture. During one of my visits to Jordan, my relatives found out that I was having dinner at Book@Cafe and the reaction was “What took you there? It’s full of gay people. It’s horrible.” Now that you have the apps, you don’t need face that embarrassing thin line moment of a relative or high school/university friend having any suspicions regarding which team you play for.
In addition, let’s keep in mind that we don’t have places where we can meet, except the bar or that house after party that everyone wants to go to. These apps are becoming one of the only refuges and ways we can communicate, but they are definitely missing the Facebook component due to the need of discretion. We also cannot deny that many of us made friends and new acquaintances throughout these apps, whether they’re acquaintances that you see frequently or those that you awkwardly have to nod to or say hello to when encountering them in public. You might have found your current boyfriend through those apps or have been on so many dates using them but still have not found prince charming.
Although these apps are made for hookups, one can customize and utilize them for their own needs. Find what your needs are and use them wisely.
Let’s be more social, let’s meet up for coffee, let’s get to know each other, and let’s improve our social skills, and most definitely let’s deal with each other as humans not as animals. Invest in those apps to build our community and to make it stronger, which our community needs to grow. You might see it differently. You might be that guy whose sole purpose in life is just sexual satisfaction – good for you, you’ve won the lottery and I am not judging.
In the process, don’t get too sucked into those social lifeline apps and remember that there is a human element that is stronger than the raging banana animal inside. A human element that if properly invested in, your sexual or ‘getting acquainted’ encounters will become more significant and self-fulfilling. Therefore, let’s start creating our community and strengthen and stand solid with each other; only that will change our position in society.
With all that, I bid thee farewell.