By now, most people have heard of Grindr, and many of us have profiles. Our contact at Grindr reports that there are 4 million users worldwide, 1.3 million of whom are in the U.S. The average user logs on to Grindr 8-10 times per day and spends about 90 minutes using the app throughout the day. So if you find yourself Grindr-addicted, you’re not alone!
News headlines about the app are pretty extreme:
EXPOSED: The seedy underbelly of hook-up apps (News.com.au, September 2012) A deadly dating game (China Daily, September 2012) Grindr: Welcome to the World’s Biggest, Scariest Gay Bar (Vanity Fair, May 2011) Popular gay dating app Grindr blamed for syphilis outbreak (Examiner.com, August 2012)
Not to mention Paris Hilton’s recent comments that “most” gay men on Grindr “probably have AIDS.” Paris isn’t the only one to blame Grindr for increased rates of HIV and STD infections among gay and bi men. So what’s the deal? Are folks just looking for someone to blame, or does the app somehow promote or condone risky business, like barebacking or anonymous sex? We at GO Atlanta took a closer look.
In Grindr’s policies, there’s nothing to be found promoting or discouraging unprotected sex. The app does prohibit “sexually explicit, revealing, or overly suggestive photos,” as well as “nudity or physically revealing clothing of any kind.” And, to Grindr’s credit, there is a Grindr Health page, which links to resources for HIV and STD testing, as well as substance abuse resources. Throughout the site, Grindr advocates user safety and responsibility.
Grindr has a reputation for being a booty call app. But is it? In a recent study of Grindr users in West Hollywood and Long Beach, CA, researchers found that the most popular reasons for using Grindr were to kill time (84.3%)and make new friends (78.7%), followed by connecting with the gay community (64.5%) and meeting hook-ups (64.5%). Participants in the study were more likely to use condoms with partners they met on Grindr (59.8%) compared to partners they met elsewhere (41.9%).
So, that brings us back to our original question: is it really Grindr that’s fueling HIV and STD epidemics? The app touts itself as a platform for guys to meet other guys, and it’s being used heavily around the world… but not necessarily to look for sex.
It’s easy to blame an app that makes it so darn easy to get laid. There are 9 guys within a mile of me right now! But really, it’s my job to get tested so that I know my status and use condoms to stay healthy. And to talk to my partners about their status, too. Here in ATL, AID Atlanta offers HIV and STD testing and free condoms. If you want to learn more about staying safe, watch our series of webisodes, “A Gay in the Life.” They’re quick, funny, informative, and just for registering and watching, you’ll get a Starbucks giftcard.
Many health agencies are starting to use Grindr and other hookup apps to talk to guys about getting testing. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see GO Atlanta on Grindr soon.
Rachel Pryzby is serving as Social Media Coordinator for GO Atlanta, and holds an MPH in Health Education and Health Promotion. GO Atlanta is happy to have her join our team!