Opinion Piece by Clayton Mercieca
I was invited by the University of Malta's Student's Council (KSU) this week together with Sex Expert Matthew Bartolo from Willingess for a discussion with the students about the effects of dating apps like Tinder and Grindr.
I was a past user to Grindr so my experience may have been out of touch and the internet provided me with the usual articles and creepy stories of men being murdered via a hook-up gone wrong via the app. I also knew that there was a study based on Social Media apps and Grindr ranked top of the list in terms of making users feel depressed. In another online survey, 77% of 200,000 iPhone Users remarked that they regretted the decision of using Grindr after the first use. This, together with my personal bias that Grindr is run by a Gaming Company based in China and not by an LGBTQ+ run company or at least in an LGBTQ+ affirmative country, had me prepared with doom and gloom about the use of the app. Then again I wanted to have an open conversation with the students present whilst also being honest with my bias to the app.
So I resorted to my handy personal instagram account and at about 2 hours before the talk, I asked via an insta-story a straight forward question:
"Need quick answers as I have a talk at 3pm - Has your experience on Grindr been positive overall? And Why?"
Within the first hour of posting it, I had a number of replies that allowed me to take a step back from my personal bias but I allowed the full 24-hour cycle of the insta story to take its course to look at more answers. You can have a look at each answer in the gallery below:
As one may see, the answers vary widely.
Some found it useful to make new meaningful connections like friends or partners, especially when they came out rather late in life. Lest we forget that Malta has a lack of LGBTQ spaces and the only opportunity that individuals can meet and find a decent dating pool is mostly through events.
Others had only people interested in them for a one-night stand which was not exactly what they were after.
Some did not fail to mention that people are rude or creeps via the app and blocking becomes an essential feature.
One had a careful yet healthy approach stating that once there is a sort of connection, the conversation is taken to another social media platform to ascertain the authenticity of the users.
It's important to realise that Grindr is a tool and can be used for any intention. Some seek genuine connections, others purely out of curiosity, fun and unfortunately some seek to do harm. Grindr basically becomes a pot of mixed intentions and people are wading through them hoping to find the one that resonates with them.
I do worry for those who are not experienced in navigating the gay dating world and can be vulnerable, like young queers, older/dependent individuals, trans people and those who find it difficult to interact socially in real life to handle an app like Grindr and make a success out of it. There are people who will fish out vulnerable people and lure them purely to abuse them, manipulate them or scam the hell out of them and I doubt we have the protection mechanisms by the police and relevant authorities in place to support such victims.
I also blame the lack of sex education and lack of conversations that exist surrounding LGBTQ matters at a national level. When a slight whiff of this happens, hundreds of angry parents take it to social media to cause a conundrum and things are quieted down again. What happens as a result, is that we end up resorting to porn and chatrooms to model our future relationships, not ideal tools to form healthy models of relationships and intimacy.
Clayton Mercieca is the LGBTQ Community Manager for Allied Rainbow Communities.