In addition to building a reputation for being the go-to app for gay hook ups, Grindr has amassed a dark reputation that has left a lot of people suspicious of it. On a personal level, I would download Grindr in a world where I was predisposed to enjoy virtual social interactions (because almost every gay person I know has it in his phone). However I have trouble signing-in to smart phone applications like BBM and Whatsapp on my phone – let alone use them. I suspect a Grindr app on my phone will suffer the same fate. And I make decisions to use items based on their usefulness to me rather than by how many people use said items. This scribbling of thought, though, isn’t to make a case for or against Grindr. It is an attempt to bring some clarity to the claim that gay people in search of love need Grindr. It hopes to dismantle this premise in order to bring forth a truth and find out what we might do with what we find.
I sat in a double bunk bed one hot afternoon. I was fresh into boarding school, at the dawn of beginning second phase of secondary school. Three weeks had passed up until this day when I sat in a double bunk bed. The rave about the new boy who behaves like a girl was beginning to settle. I thought so. Boys, collapsed on their beds, used exercise books to fan off heat. Some were outside, making crashing sounds of pouring water, scooped with small cups from buckets onto their naked bodies. To bring the seriousness of my femininity to my attention a boy I had grown fond of over the weeks came to sit by me on the bed. The talk began as the casual kind: are you having a good day? The weather is so hot. What are we eating this afternoon? Then as though to warn me of a terrifying snake he said it, his voice loud: is this how you are going to be behaving when you go to University, or when you start wearing suit and working? I was dazed by the suddenness of it. And I was left to regain my orientation in a struggle. I countered with questions: what is wrong with the way I behave? Who said I can’t behave this way? Why will I be unable to wear a suit? Of all the points he raised, one struck a chord. He said: all those rapists in the University hostel will waste no time in ravaging your ass. I felt an immediate offense by this. It hurt. I was overwhelmed by a sense that in his mind I lacked any agency. That someone could simply walk up to me and do as he saw fit. What I find interesting as I recall this incident is that of all the arguments I raised the one that I held onto was that such people – gay people – do not exist. And I believed this at the time.
At the dawn of puberty I had my first homoerotic dream. Then followed same-sex crushes and then same-sex first love. Through the episodes I lacked words like “gay” or “dating” in my vocabulary. The kind of dating I knew of always happened between a boy and a girl. It never occurred to me to think about it with the persons I had fallen for. Not so much that I felt I wasn’t allowed to but that it didn’t occur to me as a possibility. There was no need to call the relationship I had with my love interests “dating”. Though now that I think of it that’s probably what we were doing. It’s safe to say I left the idea of the search of a man unexplored (even in my imagination). There was no need to be in a search to “date” people. There was just a foreignness to it.
A lot has change up until this point when I write this. Exploring the idea of dating a man has lost a bit of its foreignness. And in my search for tools to help me navigate the dating scene what my (gay) friends and a good portion of the gay community point to is Grindr. Their reasons are simple:
- You live in Nigeria where everybody is (legally) straight.
- You need to be able to navigate across the (gay) social sphere.
- Since things like clubs and parties are out of the question Grindr is your only option.
One would think that being that I am just starting out on the dating scene, I would/should hop unto all the options available to me. However, I am one of those who hold a dark superstition towards ideas like you need Grindr. Here are a few of my concerns: There is…
- The issue of faceless avatars – those who hide their faces out of security concerns.
- The issue of the imposter whose sole purpose for being on the app is to lure unsuspecting men into traps, so as to rob them or worst attempt to rid them of gayness through beating.
- The issue of having to go through those who send unsolicited dick pics.
- The issue of having to endure tags like “no femmes”, “straight acting only”, all so I can find what I am truly after: love.
Self-knowledge can be tricky. When love – that feeling that highlights our innate need to connect and opens up ways to do so – gets thrown into the mix, understanding ourselves through the knowledge we have collected can become trickier. When we set our introspective lens on the issue of love in our lives, we realise that what most of us describe as a longing for love is in fact the abundant presence of a debilitating emotion: loneliness – that feeling that highlights our disconnection from others and blinds us from ways to connect. It can be difficult to tell the two apart, because both appear to be the same . In my experience it seems as though they are emotions at opposite sides of an equation, in the way that 2+7 = 9 show mathematical programs at opposite sides of an equation: our sense of loneliness results from our longing for love and vice versa, our longing for love results from our sense of loneliness. However, they remain distinct .
We make to address the presence of these sister emotions in different ways. From them our actions tend to fall from two motives: to fix the disconnection or to nourish the ability to connect. Forgetting in most cases that the latter takes care of the former.
Say you have a withering plant in a flower-pot. It’s the harmattan season so a thick film of dust is settled on the leaves, adding to its brown. What would you do to get the plant to its healthy state? I doubt you would make to clean the leaves of the plant of dust or airbrush them with a befitting colour green. What I suspect you’d do is you would pour abundant water onto the soil in which the plant is rooted. And watch the plant, as time progresses, send the water to its leaves (along with soil nutrients) to not only rid its leaves of dust but transform them into a green appealing enough for you to qualify the plant as beautiful. You’d be surprised how many of us use dusters and airbrushes to rid ourselves of the dust of disconnectedness that accumulate from the absence of love – the ability to connect – in our lives. What we need do instead is ignite our ability to connect.
The Purpose of Grindr
Igniting our ability to connect is what Grindr was made to achieve. Here is what Joel Simkhai, the founder of Grindr, said about the inception of Grindr in an interview with Dina-Ray Ramos of newnownext.com:
It came out necessity in my own life. I was like, “How do I meet all these guys?” […] I turned to Scott Lewallen and I said, “I want to create an app that lets you meet the guys around you”.
When asked about the reception of Grindr, Scott added:
I would say that we provide a good tool for people. People are going to use it however they use it. By large, it’s a tool for connecting people”.
We can agree Grindr is a chatting app for connecting people, it has the specific function of linking gay men with one another. The app is sublime. I’m not so trusting of those who use it, as highlighted by Scott’s clause: People are going to use it however they use it.
Recall, two motives drive us into deploying actions to address our longing for love: to fix a disconnection or to nourish an ability to connect. Our forgetfulness, that getting better at the latter addresses the former, tends to arise because options exist for fixing the disconnection (at least temporarily). The most popular and powerful is sex – the ability to reproduce .
I doubt it’s possible to mention (gay) men (in the context of Grindr) without mentioning sex. Expecting its absence in the discourse is like being in a social discourse with married women and expecting to not hear “sleeping around”. I’m not suggesting that all married men “sleep around”. What I am saying is that it is prevalent in the same way “meaningless” sex is prevalent among (gay) men.
It’s unsurprising that to partake in sexual exploration gay men look to Grindr. In many cases it results from a disparity that arises from a failure to distinguish a sense of loneliness from a longing for love – since both tell you to connect but do so in different ways . To have sex/love, you need to connect. The depth in which you are able to connect with another determines what you get. It’s safe to say that you can get sex without falling in love and to say that falling in love always brings sex with it (depending on the agreement of the parties involved in the communion). With a sense of loneliness we tend to go into a relationship (or in search of one) with the idea that we would find that one person who would strip us clean of the dusts of disconnectedness that buries us, wash us with that elixir that sips in our skin to provide us with an ecstatic sense of communion, leaving our longings satisfied all the time. It may be dangerous to begin any pursuit of love with this sense.
How to Find Love
Here is a common yet interesting idea: you have a soul mate. You have that person made for you by destiny. That person with whom you will know no suffering because at the dawn of your communion with this person you will live happily ever after.
Imagine pitching this idea to an average man of, perhaps, the 18th century. One of those who believed in betrothing spouses onto their children. Through the way he saw the world communion was better this way. One could expand his economic/social/political influence through ties bounded by marriage. Things are different now though, we go into marriage because of love. To even think of going into a marriage with economic consideration is considered “unromantic”. This difference makes it worthy to take the attitudes of our forebear into focus because with it we get that much of the way we think about love and communion isn’t what had always been. That the way we think about love and its role and manifestation in our lives changes.
Quite a number of ideas surrounding love is cultural. This is not to suggest that love is a cultural construct. It points to something else: that love permeates through culture, acting on it and acted upon. It is subject to whatever culture makes of it. It doesn’t drive culture, it is driven by culture. And the way we think about (falling in) love has to do with, in addition to how we feel, what we expect and what is expected of us.
It is important that we, you and I as individuals, rid ourselves of the cultural biases that surround love and find our way to what lies at the core of our wants, our needs and our desires. This requires something rather cumbersome: self-understanding. It can be difficult to understand our self. Part of the challenge is the illusion that we know ourselves and to go into the activity of uncovering our truths is an unnecessary exercise. What’s tragic is that this illusion sips into our relationship with others, especially those we accord a special kind of love. We expect that since we have given them our love, in the way as intense as our love for ourselves, they should know and understand us by default. This expectation more than often leads to less than satisfactory relationships. We have to entertain the possibility that in hoping someone else will get to understand us up to the point of striping us of our sufferings that arise from loneliness or a longing for love, he will do a poor job. How well he grows in helping us ease our suffering depends on how well we are able to teach him what a good job means. Some of us get lucky, we come across that healthy lover who teaches us how to love ourselves and in turn how to love them. The rest of us need rely on something more certain than luck.
At the expense of coming across as insensitive I must add that gay folks are a wounded bunch. Myself included. The atmosphere of a homophobic environment ensures that our wounds, first impacted at childhood, stay open and raw and irritable. So it’s important to exercise a special kind care when choosing to navigate the (gay) social sphere in search of love. To pick our navigation tools wisely and to become adept at the ones we choose.
One useful tool is the idea that love is always available to us. Even though it may mean entertaining, for a while, just the kind we accord ourselves. It’s important to practise self-love. Because it embodies us with the fortitude to love another human being. This is surest path to finding love. It diminishes the sense of being in a search and allows for the expression of what lies in the innermost bits of us.
So Here is The Deal
When our friends say you need Grindr what they mean is they would love to see us connect with another person in a way that is deep. They want us to connect with this other person in that way that allows us to do, with this person, things we wouldn’t do with others. They want us to find love. The thing about finding something is it often requires a search. And when it comes to love it’s easy to go looking in the wrong place, to deploy the right tools in search of the right thing in the wrong place. This produces nothing. Grindr can ignite our ability to connect and it can ignite our disability to connect as well. It is a tool that depends on the user.
1. My initial judgment was to think them as the same thing. However the more ponder it I am more become inclined to think they not they same, despite their emanating from the same source. I liken their similarity to a mathematical equation. Where what lies at the left had side (lhs), separated by an equal-to sign, equals what lies at the right hand side (rhs). To say that what lies at the lhs and what lies at the rhs, separate by an equal-to sign are the same is to commit a blunder (at least to a mathematician). For example, 2+7 = 9. 9 is the same thing as 9 and 2+7 remains 2+7 anywhere on earth and in truth it is equal to 9. But to maintain that 2+7 is the same thing as 9 would be false because our first equation can be replaced with 2+7 = 3² which in itself holds an arithmetic truth.
In a similar light, a sense of loneliness may result from an absence of love, i.e., sense of loneliness = absence of love. However, a sense of loneliness is not the same as an absence of love.
If we tweak elements of what lies at the ends of the equal-to sign, much like we did with our mathematical counterpart by introducing an arithmetic operator. We can bring a little more nuance to the disparity that exist between a sense of loneliness and an absence of love.
Let’s give love the following rather crude meanings:
a. the ability to connect.
b. the condition of being understood by someone or the condition where you understand someone (either intuitively or otherwise).
c. a sense of fondness.
A sense of loneliness = an absence of the ability to connect.
A sense of loneliness ≠ an absence of someone who understands you
A sense of loneliness ≠ an absence of a sense of fondness.
In true meaning of the word, equation a aligns with what we understand by loneliness – the absence of the ability (either in form of capacity or/and in form of capability) to connect.
Equation b and c point to different things. We can call b – the absence of feeling understood by another – aloneness
And we can call c – the absence of a sense of fondness -hate/indifference
2. All emotions arise from the same source: the limbic system. Though It can be easy to tell some apart from the rest, some can prove a source of confusion by appearing like one another.
3. It came to my attention that sex goes beyond the need to reproduce. In addition to being a tool for reproduction sex is also used as a social tool to forge bonds and achieve other social ends.
4. I suspect this because the reason I feel most tempted to reach for the app is when my libido is on an extreme high.
*this post was inspired by Braveheart
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