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. Boys collapsed on their beds used exercise books to fan off heat. Some were outside baffing, leaving us inside with their sounds of water scooped from buckets pouring onto their naked bodies. 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 going to eat 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 the question, 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 bursting your ass.” I felt an immediate offense by this. It hurt. I was cut 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. The interesting bit 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, 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:
- 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 gathered over the course of our lives 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 – a feeling that highlights our disconnection from others yet blinds us from ways to connect. It can be difficult to tell the two apart, because both appear to be the same . From 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. However, they remain distinct emotions . Our approaches to address the presence of these sister emotions in our lives tend to be different but they can be said to arise from one of two motives: to fix the disconnection we experience or to nourish our ability to connect. Our place in unraveling the trick is to remember that nourishing our ability to connect takes care of the feelings of disconnection we experience.
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 pour abundant water onto the soil in which the plant is rooted and watch the plant, as time progresses, send the water (along with soil nutrients) to its leaves to not only rid its leaves of dust but transform them into a green appealing enough for you to qualify the plant as beautiful. It should be surprising and unsettling that many of us use dusters and airbrushes to rid ourselves of the dust of disconnectedness that accumulate from the absence of love in our lives. The remedy we need bring into transforming our withering lives as influenced by love isn’t to fix feelings of disconnection highlighted by loneliness it rests in how adept we are at nourishing our capacity for connection.
The Purpose of Grindr
Nourishing our ability to connect is what Grindr was made to achieve. Here is what Joel Simkhai, the founder of Grindr, said in an interview with Dina-Ray Ramos of newnownext.com about the inception of Grindr:
“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 said:
“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.” [emphasis mine]
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. But as highlighted by Scott’s clause – people are going to use it however they use it – our trust of the app need be caged in a suspicion sensitive to the reality that we share the app with other people whose motives lie beyond our awareness. Our use of Grindr needs to be exercised with caution. Recall, our approaches for deploying actions to address our longing for love arises from two motives: to fix a disconnection or to nourish an ability to connect. Our forgetfulness, that getting better at the nourishing our ability to connect fixes our sense of disconnection, tends to arise because options exist for fixing the disconnection. The most popular and powerful of these options is sex – the ability to reproduce . Grindr serves as the perfect medium in connecting people to meet this end.
It’s impossible 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”. This isn’t to suggest all married men “sleep around”. It is a way of saying it is prevalent in the same way “meaningless” sex is prevalent among (gay) men. It should come without surprise that to partake in sexual exploration gay men look to Grindr. It offers route to addressing a longing for love. However in many cases, lots of us who use the app suffer the failure to distinguish a desire to fix a sense of disconnection from a desire to nourish our capacity for connection – since both tell us to connect albeit do so in different ways .
To have sex/love, we need to connect. The depth in which we are able to connect with another determines what we get. It’s safe to say that one 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). From a sense of disconnection highlighted by loneliness we tend to go into relationships (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 clean with an elixir that sips in our being to provide us with an ecstatic sense of communion, bring us to a place where our longings are left perpetually satisfied. Beginning any pursuit of love with this sense is to start off from a wrong place.
Grindr is rife with people whose motives lie beyond our awareness. From the reputation amassed by the app we can draw conclusion a majority of those who use the app operate from a desire other than the one responsible for nourishing a capacity for loving connection. Their actions are dictated by desires to fix a sense of disconnection and sex offers the perfect means to this end. It’s best to embark on the pursuit of love with this knowledge, because it brings clarity to the nature of our endeavor. Without this knowledge, to wield such tool as Grindr in our pursuit of love is more often than not a recipe for disaster.
How to Find Love
Here is a common idea: you have a soul mate. You have that one person assigned to you by destiny; that person with whom you will know no suffering because from the dawn of your communion with this person you will only know happiness and you live with this person in perpetual happiness for the rest of your days.
According to Swiss Philosopher, Alain de Botton, this idea is new. An average man of perhaps the 18th century would have thought it ridiculous. Matrimonial communion, through the lens of this 18th century man, is better served through betrothing children with spouses carefully selected by parents and other members of family. One could expand economic, social, and/or political influence through ties forged by marriage and such efforts need careful strategy rather than feelings of love. But in the modern world, in present day civilization, things are different. Love is our guiding principle for getting into marriage. To think of going into a marriage with preeminent purpose of cementing one’s economic, social or political footing is considered the apogee of cynical rottenness. One needs to walk through the bars of matrimony guided by the romantic hand of love.
This difference between us and those who lived in the 18th century is worthy of attention because it shows the way we think about love, communion and marriage is far from being a fixed rite handed down to humanity from the beginning of time (as some bits of culture would have us believe). The way we think about love, its role and manifestations in our lives is subject to change. Quite a number of ideas surrounding love is cultural. This isn’t to suggest love is a cultural construct. It points to something else: that love permeates through culture, acting on it and acted upon by it. Love is subject to what culture makes of it while being independent of culture. It drives culture and it is driven by culture. The way we think about falling in love (the bit independent of culture) has to do with, in addition to what we feel, what we expect and what is expected of us.
It is important we rid ourselves of cultural biases that surround love in our personal lives and find our way to what lies at the core of our wants, our needs and our desires. This requires a cumbersome undertaking: self-understanding. It can be difficult to understand our self. Part of the challenge is the illusion we know who we are and to go into the activity of uncovering our truths is an unnecessary exercise. What’s tragic when in comes to our place in love is this illusion sips into our relationship with others, especially those we extend a special kind of love. In our quest for love, we fail to tease out what drives us, a desire to diminish feelings of loneliness or a desire to nourish our capacity for connection. We put ourselves and those we extend love at a disservice when we operate from desires to diminish feelings of loneliness. In efforts to find love as dictated by pressures from culture we might find ourselves sidestepping the important undertaking of self-knowledge and self-understanding. This often leads to less than satisfactory relationships.
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. 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 practice self-love because it embodies us with the fortitude to love another human being. It serves as the elixir in our capacity to connect with those who deserve us. This is surest path to finding fulfilling love. It diminishes the sense of being in a search and allows for the expression of a love that radiates from the innermost bit of who we are.
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, enriching and fulfilling. They want us to connect with another person in ways testament to tales of romance. They want us to find love. One feature about finding things is it often requires we go on a search. When it comes to love it’s easy to deploy benign tools from the wrong place in search of the right thing. This tends to produces ill-desired results. Grindr serves to nourish our ability to connect. The result it delivers relies on our adeptness in understanding who we are and the motives that drive us and others into actions. We should be careful to not let our actions arise from a need to stifle feelings of loneliness. We should be sensible of the motives that lead others in their quest to connect. We find love by first loving ourselves and nourishing our ability to extend that love to those who deserve us.
You are Awesome!
Do you have comments, questions, or suggestions? Please let me know in the reply area below.
1. My initial judgment was to think a desire to diminish loneliness and a desire to nourish a capacity for connection as the same thing. However, the more ponder it the more I become inclined to think they are distinct. I liken their similarity to a mathematical equation where what lies at the left had side (lhs) separated by an equal sign produces what lies at the right hand side (rhs). To say that what lies at the lhs and what lies at the rhs are the same is to commit a blunder, at least to a mathematician.
2+7 = 9.
9 is 9. And 2+7 remains 2+7 anywhere on earth, and is in truth 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 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:
- the ability to connect.
- the condition of being understood by someone or the condition where you understand someone (either intuitively or otherwise).
- a sense of fondness.
A sense of loneliness = an absence of the ability to connect. ——————— a
A sense of loneliness ≠ an absence of someone who understands you. —– b
A sense of loneliness ≠ an absence of a sense of fondness. ———————— c
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 Leo