The Ghosts in Grindr – Cock Shopping.

Personally, I’ve had a very ambiguous relationship with Grindr. It’s the one ‘social networking’ site next to Facebook that evokes in me a strange combination of emotions. Grindr has a more profound mental effect than facebook – using it, I oscillate frequently between feelings of vacuous despair, to raging horn (amongst others – but essentially always up and down, and never quite stable). Ultimately it depresses me, in more ways than one.

I delete the thing frequently, only to upload it again a month or so down the line. Every time I do, I convince myself I’m just ‘having a look’, it’s just a ‘bit of fun’ or that in some transcendental manner I’ll approach my engagements on it in a unique and fulfilling way – fostering deep connections and sprinkling profound love and connection where ever I go.  Invariably though I end up being sucked into the narrow and objectifying world that it is: shopping for cock, consuming thumbnails of twinks, otters and geeks like takeaway options, trying to resist the empty pull of the cock-pix exchange, but failing – then feeling unchanged.

So why do I go back? Really? Do I take it too seriously? Is it my overly analytical nature – or are there others out there that feel a bit spooked by the ghosts in Grindr?

If I’m completely honest – part of me hopes that the reassuring little vibrate in my pocket, that accompanies the arrival of a torrent of messages and empty but motivated compliments, will to some extent fill up a gaping hole within me. Maybe that, if there’s enough of them superficially cooing and posturing for a bit of ‘NSA’, that together they’ll constitute a fix enough to shore up my confidence. Perk me up. Give me that swagger in my walk and talk where I know I’m looking good. The ghosts told me so.

Don’t judge me. Am I the only one with a gaping hole? If we’re all so self assured, why is there such a vibrant community on Grindr? Is it genuinely because it facilitates a quick fuck – what you want, when you want it? (is that really all that we ever want?). Or alternatively, is it because we’re hoping the man of our dreams will emerge from its garish interface? Of course, Grindr is meant to open up a world of options, by closing the distance between our ‘community’ – opening up opportunities to cruise each other. But there’s something about that distance that insulates us from the authentic in Grindr (three feet away or not, in Grindr world it could be a cosmic chasm).

If we are all so ‘sane and sorted’, so resilient in our self-love and confidence, why has our search for connection become so online-compulsive? About simple commodification over deep connection?

Are you strong enough to handle rejection? Or is Grindr a way of evading invalidation? Trigger happy on the block button? Blatant ignorance your favourite feature? – or just skipping on nonchalantly to your next bit of pseudo-fulfillment, should an awkward (real) moment arise? The objectification-game on Grindr seems like an easy one to play – but I contend that it has real consequences. The more you play it, the colder and more conflicted you become. 

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to project (well, maybe a bit). I’m genuinely posing some questions (and hoping for some answers) based on my own thinking. If you’ve met your soul mate on Grindr, that’s beautiful. For longevity, I guess the test afterward is to worm out the impulses that initially sent you to market – but perhaps that’s a romantic idea in a market world. Indeed, Grindr loves to cart out numerous examples of the queer-romance. Fluffy portrayals of dough-eyed pretty boys, or the cuddly cubs in love – convinced that their love would have remained unfound without the scrolling menace. Examples I believe, that obfuscate the dark underworld and dynamics of Grindr: the marketisation of our culture and mass-instrumentalisation of our sensual and spiritual connections. 

How about your shags through Grindr? How is the sex? Is it raw, unabashed and intoxicating? Does the physicality induce in you the feeling of being safe and held? Or do you feel a bit like a throw away wet wipe afterward? I’ve had some great sex through Grindr in the past – but it always feels like satiating a discrete part of the system, rather than nourishing the whole spectrum of my needs. But I guess when you embark upon an encounter facilitated by the cock-shopping channel, sometimes discrete satisfaction is all you can hope for.

Grindr seems, to me, like the tool of a wounded tribe. Do we really need to insert such a crude interface into our intimate (or not so) relationships? And If our culture is now framed by necessity by the techno-orgy of the present, can’t we at least go about it critically, and with an open heart? By default, Grindr cultivates in us a form of consciousness which sets us up in binary opposition to one another – I the subject / you the object. Before I know you, I know what I want from you (or don’t for that matter). Can we subvert the parameters of the relationality that Grindr permits, by being open to the possibility of the subject on the other side? Manifesting some manly realness, some connection with integrity, from the vapor? 

Use it or not, love it or hate it, it’s part of our culture now. But I often wonder whether there’s more self respect in tinkering with our own software, rather than Grindr’s.