You finally arrive home after a hectic day and what better way to get rid of some tension than the accompaniment of a gentleman caller. Then you open the app, letting those within a designated area know that you’re available to have some fun. Time passes as you’ve blocked those you have no interest in or the profiles that creep you out. After going through some preliminary participants you later reject you finally come across a profile that adequately meets your requirements as they haven’t grossed you out. Then there’s conversation via a series of text messages to verify profile claims and likelihood of sexual compatibility. An agreement is struck to the location of where to meet. Then there’s sex. And then most often, unless it’s someone who literally blows your socks off, you never hear from each other again.
It definitely isn’t the only dating ritual of gay men but it by far is the most popular. Today’s technology offers social interaction on such a convenient level than ever before. It allows us to be able to not even bother with the hassle of hearing from people whose looks, personality, or conversation that we do not like. It is almost comparable to online clothes shopping in how easily accessible it is to find someone to have sex with any time, any where. And to me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it being that way, safely. There’s always an assured confidence in knowing what you want out of your relationships so why should selecting who we want to have a one night stand with be any different.
But here’s the thing, today I was asked does the easy access to sex diminish the possibility of experiencing a real, fully developed relationship. Do apps like Grindr make sex cheap and thereby less meaningful? I had to at least entertain the question. But as I began to process the inquiry it leads to me asking: Does the easy access actually make having real, sustainable relationships harder to have? Because of how easily it is to select a sexual partner for an evening or two translate into how we look for someone to share or lives with? Do you ever question how much social dating apps change and influence the way you see other men? Does it change the way that you look for dates out in the real world? Or does it change your entire perception on what other men are like?
These are all legitimate questions if you think about it. Communication now is more about a text someone sends rather than the voice of the person sending the message. We are more focused on the physical aspects of a guy than any other attribute he may possess. Intimacy is now more about what is said than what is heard. The fast pace of it all and ease that doesn’t pose any of those pesky, sometimes awkward encounters of getting to know someone out in the real world. There’s an objective, almost sterile approach to these encounters and so why wouldn’t we want our other interpersonal relationships to be just as convenient.
Of course we know these apps are not designed to find the one so I’m not arguing against their purpose. I’m asking does our use of them set the standard in how we interact in all the other relationships we seek out. So often I ask myself what are the components of a successful relationship and wonder if these behaviors we enact upon on social apps placate other social relationships. Because we communicate differently on these apps than say when we text someone out for a date, or at least they should be different. So to an extent we have to at least examine how much of an influence these social dating apps have on us.
Think about this: when you first began to fantasize about being with men (or at least didn’t deny it to yourself that you are attracted to men) what was the idea that you had in your mind? Was it you rescuing a hot, rugged man in some forest where you show off how brave and strong you were? Defending the prospective lover waiting for you to defeat their adversary and you run into each other’s arms as the antagonists stumbles away, leaving you the victor. Then you and your lover run off into the sunset to begin your happily ever after. Okay maybe that was a little over the top but that’s what I thought about all the time growing up. Comes from a tendency to want harmony and romance in all amorous situations that lead to the fantasy. But I felt like romance and sex was the same thing. That having sex was intimacy and love.
But as an adult (more likely an adolescent) we learned that this is more the exception than the rule. A lot of the lessons we learn within the gay community we have to learn pretty fast. That more often than not the fantasy and romance to sex does not exist and it is just that, sex. It’s okay when it’s just sex. Have as much as often as you like (safely) has always been my motto. It goes back to knowing what it means for you each time you choose to engage in it. So again I ask do social apps set false pretenses of what to expect out in the real world? No it doesn’t. It doesn’t promise us the fantasy of what we thought love or relationships meant. We can sometimes just erroneously apply the same expectations to every other type of relationships we pursue.
There’s a downside of course to the quick and easy mode of dating and relationships in using these dating apps and rely on the same rules to apply everywhere. When we apply this mode of interaction to all of our relationships, we miss out on a lot of the things that make relationships stronger. Those awkward moments of first meeting each other are time-honored stories of how love can bloom to the younger generation. The obstacles of getting to know someone and finding out their likes and dislikes prove to be the thing that helps strengthen them giving the relationship decades of longevity. How intimacy can be in a simple touch of a lover’s hand or one longing look into each other’s eyes. Learning and reaffirming that sex is not the only thing there is to love and that there is so much more of yourself involved. Noticing how you place deep flaws on pedestals because that is a part of the man you will love the rest of your life.
I know the ones that regularly read my articles have noticed a central theme. You’re probably thinking, oh great, another examination into the world of dating and or relationships and what they could be doing. But honestly there’s so much about relationships that I’ve only begun to write about. Maybe it’s because of the place I’m at in my life or because of the relationships I observe around me that I question them so much. But I know that sometimes you just have to accept things at face value. That certain things provide a service and that is the extent of it. And that is what Grindr, or Scruff, Adam4Adam, or sometimes even twitter is, essentially. And that is perfectly okay. Just remember that those rules don’t apply everywhere else.