Back back in the "old days" pre Grindr, if you wanted to meet a potential man (whether he was Mr. Right or Mr. Right now), you had to go out to a gay bar or a club. (Yes, there were dating sites, but people didn't have camera phones and so you never knew if the photos were reliable. It was far easier to catfish or trick someone. And frankly, I don't recall ever meeting a nice guy online, and I don't recall any of my friends getting relationships from them).
So once you set yourself on a night out in Soho, the Castro, West Hollywood or wherever, you'd be stuck with whoever was in the bar or club that night. Even on a good night, I would never see more than three or four guys I really liked. You might -- after a few shots -- get the courage to speak to one or two of them. And they'd probably shoot you down, although they were always polite to your face. And if you did meet someone nice, you'd hang on to them for at least a month or two. Even if he wasn't perfect, you'd give him a chance, because the chances of finding someone else good on another night out might be slim.
But now, we've got hundreds -- if not thousands -- of options on apps. I don't really think gay guys online are evil and soulless (although I know my complaints make it seem that way); I just think we're all totally overwhelmed. Some of my mates get 40 or 50 messages a day online. You can't meaningfully respond to all of them. So what happens next?
A. It Makes You Superficial. Let's be honest, there is NO way you can show your heart and soul to a guy in the first message. You just can't do it. So if you've got 20 guys, and all of them say some version of "Hi. How are you?" You're going to naturally be inclined to respond to the hottest ones. But my sister told me one thing that totally turned out to be true: pretty boys make bad boyfriends.
We're guys. We respond to people we find attractive. Yes, that sucks on one level, but it's just how the way things are. But the apps exacerbate that. Back in the old days (of four years ago), there were numerous ways to show that you're attractive to a guy you like. You can read their body language, their confidence level, their ability to hold a conversation, fashion sense, common interests, any number of things. But NONE of these things can come through in an app -- and they certainly can't come through within the first message or two. So all you're left with is one simple photo. That's it. Your experience and any potential future you might hold with the person comes down to one photo.
And if you're like me who sends out more messages than he typically receives, you just start throwing stuff at everyone hoping to get a response. Back when I was first starting to use Grindr, I'd read everyone's profile carefully and try to find an area of common interest where we could connect.
Guess how well that worked?
It NEVER worked. Never. So after a while, I just started saying "Hey. How's it going?" to everyone. Eventually, I would just start saying "Hey" or "Hi" if they weret even that cute. So after a while you just stop caring -- or at least, you try to stop caring.
So everyone begins to develop an "I don't care" attitude. They're overwhelmed by the app, and they stop caring or thinking with the slightest modicum of respect for other people's feelings: and that's when some really dumb bull-shit will jump off of someone's fingers and onto the screen.
With a press of a button, you can make anyone go away and you never have to live with the consequence of your hateful behavior. Don't get me wrong. Some people just keep messaging cock pics forever unless you block them, so we NEED the block button. But I am pointing out that one of the risks of such functions means that we are less present to how we leave others, and I'm not sure most gays are aware of this.
Moreover, you can say things -- abusive things -- that no one in their right mind would say in real life, and there's no check on your behavior. Some people get away with it, and it's clear that they derive satisfaction from making someone else feel bad. And some get "reported." But if Grindr sends you a stern warning, they're not going to send your abusive texts to your HR team at your job -- although sometimes I wish they would. And if your account gets deactivated, all you have to do is delete the app, reinstall and use a different email address. So there's no consequence for acting like a jerk.
The question that nags me is: is the bad online behavior unconsciously making us worse people in the real world? If you had asked me before 2015, I would have said no, most people can handle the distinction. But now with Trump's campaign I'm not so sure. Donald Trump is one giant anonymous comment section on the internet made manifest into a single man. He's the embodiment of the new app age. Everyone feels entitled to say whatever stupid thing pops into their head, and there are no consequences for saying dumb shit -- quite the opposite. Trump sailed through the primary saying crazier and crazier stuff. He was rewarded for his innate rants. But to bring it back to gay men, we need to be questioning whether app culture is making us less sensitive to caring about other people and worse boyfriend material.
App culture makes everyone completely fungible and easily replaced. So if someone can find another guy just like you (and yes, in a large city, he can find someone JUST LIKE YOU), why should he value you or invest in you? Or... How do we show guys we like that we're worth investing in?
Frankly, I wish I had an easy answer for you. If I did, I'd be married right now rather than blogging about being single. But I think I'm right to ask you to question how do you value other people when new guys are always easy and available? What impact does everyone being fungible have on us? How do we value ourselves? What's the impact on your life outside of dating? Again, I don't have an easy answer, but I'm 100% convinced that there is an impact, and on balance, that impact makes it harder to build strong healthy relationships.
Then a hot guy matches me on Tinder and then I find myself jumping for joy! Part of the problem with online dating is that "perfection" (or at least physical perfection -- or rather someone who is really hot) seems obtainable. There are always enough hot guys who will chat to you online (or meet you for a drink or a hook up) to give you hope that you can always find someone "better."
There's nothing wrong with being selective. And there's nothing wrong with knowing what you definitely want. But -- and I'm very guilty of this one as well -- we're not really powerfully choosing amazing qualities to find our husband; we're knit-picking over stupid bullshit -- like the size or color of their nipples.
We're looking for reasons to cross someone off rather than looking for reasons to keep them around! The high volume of guys makes this second nature, and we don't even realize we're doing it. So whether we realize it or not, we're probably not making the best choices in our online screening patterns.
Being sexually intimate with someone is a way of investing in someone.
(Some of your are making obscene jokes right now, because I said "invest in someone") But the point is true.
So if we're hooking up with anyone and everyone, what value are we assigning to the people we sleep with? Are we dehumanizing ourselves? Are we dehumanizing others? Again, I don't know the right balance. I'm just asking people to ponder the question. Is it really that strange that the no one wants to buy the cow when the milk is always for free?
And certainly these conversations aren't happening on Grindr!
So I tested this theory not too long ago... I went back home to visit my family for three weeks -- which is 2.5 weeks too long when you come from the boring place that I do... But in that time, I went on a date with a guy.
You guys he was so AWKWARD and so WEIRD... Had I been at home, he would have NEVER gotten a second date. But due to the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere and didn't have my endless options, I was literally "forced by circumstances" to hang out with this guy. At first, I thought, "Well, he and I can be friends." And after we got to know each other from hanging out, things changed and we became romantically involved. I found he -- like myself -- has been hurt a few times and he sometimes acts awkward as a result. But overall, he had a good heart. I wouldn't have seen that if I hadn't kept investing time in him anyway.
Obviously, I had to return home, and I live too far to make long-distance feasible, but I learned a valuable lesson. Miracles can turn up when you give people a chance. I'm not saying this guy was my husband or that we'll end up married. Looking at him through the lens of "big city gay boy", I missed what a great person he was. It definitely got me present to how quickly I write people off, even when I think that I don't. But it made me ponder the following question, which I will leave with you:
If by some twist of fate, you were forced by circumstances to be with one guy -- even if he's not your ideal "type" -- do you think some spark or relationship might develop?
Another way to think of it is: if you were stuck on a desert island with a guy, could you work things through?
Now some people you might just have to kill them & eat them, because you just can't stand each other. But if I was forced by circumstance to work on things with people, I'm probably a lot more compatible with far more people than I realize.