Are You Really Discreet on Grindr?
Wed, 30 Jan 2019 || By Anaq Duanaiko

Grindr is an online dating application targeted at men who are into men.  The platform has arguably become a viral application for those men on brief erotic encounters, sexualised behaviours and making connections.[1] Grindr as the ‘killer’ app for the gays has contributed many aspects to the LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ community. Joel Simkhai, an Israeli homosexual guy who invented this app by the means to fulfil his desire for meeting more gay men.[2] As social media, Grindr helped gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and curious guys on communicating with each other and the communication that happens on Grindr is somehow more than just chats.[3] This app combined two of the most dangerous private data which are a picture and geographical aspects on its application just for the mean of getting (a) connections to ‘desire’ or befriend one another based on the data that the users have exposed.


A concise explanation on the pictorial data, Grindr as an app that allows users to send and upload pictures has allowed the visual culture as a ‘fascination’ with display and visual that could please their sense of feeling intimate.[4] In this case, a selfie will be not considered as a mere self-aesthetic picture of themselves, but as a discursive media that put someone on the intersection of public and private or intimate.[5] Selfies have been considered as self-contained media,[6] as a rapid “documenting” of the self,[7] as a “sociocultural revolution” about “identity affirmation”,[8] as a “condition” of social media,[9] as a political convergence of the object and subject of photographic practice, as an act of conspicuous presumption,[10] as spaces for identity manipulation or “selective self-representation”,[11] and as a neoliberal, even narcissistic but increasingly normative mode of “self-branding”.[12]


Meanwhile as a matter of location, Grindr’s unique feature to be aware of who might interact around you on screen and continues ‘in real life.’[13] Being on Grindr also means that you are ready to have no privacy (by stating it on their terms & condition) on your location since it still shows the proximity of each other even by disabling the feature.[14] This app has been criticised for its exact proximity of each user which Grindr itself claimed that they are trying to increase the level of privacy of each user.[15] By the short explanation before, this location-based application has its advantage and disadvantages which then still trigger the users to compete with other users by seeing every possible details of the users around or even  with someone nearby.


The digital interaction brought up by Grindr is based on users proximity so that the user does not feel alone since that there are several possible connection around the user. Location-based social networking applications offer new ways to see, engage with and represent those who occupy physical spaces. Early work on mobile ICTs focused on text messaging among teenagers,[16] and with the rise of the geographic positioning system (GPS)-enabled smartphones, human-computer interaction researchers have produced a growing body of research on location-disclosure.[17] [18] [19] Geolocative services such as Dodgeball and Foursquare have also been studied.[20] [21]


Grindr’s geolocative nature requires that we consider the way location and interactions are figured by the platform and experienced by its users. Communication geographers conceptualise the relationship between communication and space in a variety of ways. The distinguishing between ‘space’ as a container for social action and ‘place’ as a subjective understanding of that space. [22] likewise, providing a framework for considering when and how communication ‘textures' subjective experience of a place as opposed to ‘structuring’ one’s interactions within a space.[23] The distinction between space and place can help differentiate between the technological affordances of Grindr as space and how these affordances are impacted by structural properties of a physical location. Likewise, place allows us to account for how subjective experiences of Grindr are textured by individuals’ interactions and experiences of the space Grindr as an app provides.


Location awareness, moreover, raises new questions about community and boundaries. The taxonomy of location-aware systems that distinguish between types of information shared (place names vs GPS coordinates), whether the information is shared with strangers or known contacts, and the nature of communication.[24] With Grindr, GPS coordinates are stocked with a server, which keeps exact location private but uses it to calculate geographic proximity to others. Only this distance is shared with other users. This allows for meeting proximate strangers without having to identify known contacts or socially defined place names.[25] At the same time, though, this means Grindr co-situates geographically proximate users in a way that transcends and conflates socially defined places and neighborhood.


Thus, being discrete is still a part of LGBTQ+ culture. By providing private data to the public, in this case, pictures and location, Grindr has put these discrete users in a very uncomfortable situation where it raises a question of how could one still be getting friends, and how one could desire while being positively secured by not sharing personal information to get connected and involve around  the network?

Editor: Anisa Pratita Mantovani

Read another article written by Anaq Duanaiko


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