We pass around a joint, conversing every few minutes about a message we’ve received (“this guy’s hot”; “come look at this fairy”; “this fucking asshole just stopped responding”), either from a handsome prospect who lives a few floors down or the silver fox who’s 836 feet away, but the night ends as it started, with four single, fledgling gay millennials, supine and slightlystoned.
In places like New York City, sex, or the prospect of it, is laughably easy to procure thanks to Grindr, which launched in 2009, when my friends and I were closeted 14-year-olds, going to high school in provincial suburban towns, watching our straight classmates dip their toes into the world of promiscuity as we hunkered down and studied, sexless.
But what does it mean that my friends and I are sitting together, silently perusing a grid of Mapplethorpian thumbnails of actual human beings instead of going out and enjoying the city, a sort of metropolitan refuge we yearned for just a few years “I just think it’s silly sometimes to give up so much to be in New York City just to sit on your phone in bed looking for the D,” says Hunter. I thought I’d bebar.” While the gay-bar scene is still bustling in Hell’s Kitchen, among other places, a scroll through Grindr is simply easier than staying out late drinking cocktails, hoping not to run out of cash before you get laid, and then figuring out how to get home.
It provides an alternative on a medium that’s second nature to us, a time-wasting tonic that we return to compulsively just as we do Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Only, instead of likes, we’re asked, “Do you have any morepics?
” It’s also a kind of drug: As Stephen, who’s used the application to procure oxycodone and Xanax, told me, “It makes me feel really, really good when people like the way I look, and really, really shitty when they don’t.” Though it’s a maddeningly simple way to get your fix, sometimes I worry that it’s made my friends and me programmatically averse to the emotion and intimacy that’s required of human connection.
Having come of age in a swipe-right-or-swipe-left culture in which a willing-and-able hookup seems like it’s always just steps away (if your location services are turned on) — maybe as close as the dorm room a few floors down, or the co-op across the street, or in line for Quiznos in the dining hall — my generation, the smartphone cognoscenti, has this technology down to a T.
I once recall spending 45 minutes in a Zara changing room trying to perfect a “mirror pic,” only for the message to go unanswered.
But Grindr is not about being clever, nor is it about the profundity of your conversations; it’s about marketing yourself as a person to have sex with, rather than a person to get to know.
“I wonder if this makes me some sort of monster, but I think many people use Grindr that way, to scratch a passingitch.” But Ethan, on some level, is a romantic.
“I’m always complaining about how hard it is to meet people — in the Grindr era, we are far less likely to have a nice, little meet-cute like in the movies,” Ethan tells me.