An examination of the geosocial networking app Grindr and the impact it and similar technologies are having on queer culture.
As smartphones have become ubiquitous, so have software applications that take full advantage of Internet connectivity to bridge the gap between actual and virtual space. Popular among these apps is Grindr, an online program geared toward gay, bisexual and sexually inquisitive men. Using mobile devices’ GPS capabilities, the app helps its millions of users discover other users who happen to be nearby. Though Grindr has developed a reputation primarily as a facilitator of random hookups, its heavily moderated interface also caters to a user base of men not just looking for casual sex. Woo gives a crash course in Grindr etiquette, along with addressing privacy and personal safety concerns, while also considering the gamelike atmosphere it promotes (perhaps unintentionally) in an online community where physical gratification is often more accessible than emotional connection. With a charming sense of humor that doesn’t mind digressing, Woo’s book has a refreshingly sex-positive stance with a casual tone even when discussing dry statistics. Also included are numerous infographics, and though black and white, each is visually pleasant and consistently well-designed. Though clearly a fan of the application, Woo shows little bias, critiquing the service while comparing it with other services to better illustrate what the titular program does and doesn’t do. The book’s greatest strength—its thrift—can also be an occasional weakness, as it touches only briefly on some of the interesting questions it raises about consent and entitlement in online-based relationships. Additionally, citation is poor, at times making the information presented feel overly anecdotal, and Woo seems almost hesitant to make concrete statements about topics like social acceptability. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine a better introduction to Grindr or a more straightforward look at how technology is changing courtship, cruising culture and everything in between for queer men and everyone.
An impressive commentary on how technology continues to change the way people connect, which isn’t as niche as its subject matter might seem.