Why Don’t Gay Phone Apps Deliver ‘the Goods’ We Expect?


Scruff, grindr, mister, hornet, apps


Whether it’s Scruff or Grindr (take your pick), these apps, and the still growing slew of similar ones, have become practically de rigueur on every gay man’s phone in the 21st century. Viewed by the moral majority simply as “dating apps,” or by the more cynical as “hook-up apps,” there is no question that these phone apps have changed the face of the gay dating and social scene. The late night “sidewalk sale,” once a common scene after the bars closed, has become all but obsolete. In fact, even the gay bars themselves are no longer the hub of gay male interaction like they once were. The promise of an endless all-you-can-eat buffet of available men provided by these apps has seduced the entire gay population. And for a while there was validation to that promise. Whether it was a legitimate date you were seeking, or a shameless libido-driven hook-up, these apps delivered the goods. At least they used to.

But something has changed. It would seem reasonable to assume that as more men signed up, the pool of men would swell and exponentially increase the chance of successfully connecting with a man or two, or three, whenever you choose to open the app. But, as many gay men will tell you, the pool of men has grown, but the water in the pool seems to have been drained. It’s all talk and no action these days as more and more of the guys using these apps have become like phantoms, ghosts that appear and disappear as quickly as they came. After a conscientious decision to reach out to men using these apps and examine their “successes,” a pattern has emerged. These apps are no longer the all-you-can buffet they promised to be.

You may have thought it was just you, that despite your hopes to connect, the overwhelming majority of men on these apps these days just like to talk about meeting (whether it be for a hook up, a date, or a meet ‘n greet over coffee or a drink), but never actually go beyond just talking about meeting. Many gay men are now voicing complaints that these apps have become a time waster, resulting in endless hours lost in the fruitless search for connection. Fakes and flakes, liars and pic collectors, these are the men filling the rank and file of Scruff and Grindr these days. Guys spend way more time talking about meeting than actually meeting.

If you are reading this, chances are you have done this, talked for hours, days even, with a guy, but then perpetually put off meeting him. And I would say it’s an even bigger chance that it’s also happened to you — you know, being blown off by a guy who says he is into you, but never meets you no matter how willing you were to meet him.

So are all the men on these apps just liars, time wasters and game players?  That seems unlikely. Not every man can be a total sociopath who engages so enthusiastically with you at first, but ultimately, totally dishonestly. Of course you have to factor in the inevitable few genuine freak-crazy-psycho-weirdo-creep guys who have wormed their way in. But for the most part the apps are populated with regular, everyday guys, with the right everyday amount of decency to not be a total liar, or dick… or serial killer. So the odds dictate, reasonably thinking, that we’re all going to be pretty straight up and honest with each other while interacting on these apps… right? Not according to an increasing number of users. Trust is in short supply in the world of dating apps.


But if we are all mostly decent and honest, then why is there a disproportionate number of guys saying one thing about meeting, but doing another… as in, not meeting?  It can’t always be a deliberate deception because most guys are not, in fact, actually jerks all the time. As Prince once said “something in the water does not compute.”

Except it does compute, because the game has changed since the apps first hit the market. The gay dating apps have now become a safety zone of sorts, a place where every guy you chat with could, on the turn of a dime, be the greatest thing that ever happened to you, or the worst mistake you ever made. And until you meet, you never quite really know. So it’s very easy to turn every guy you “woof” or “oink” at into the perfect Shroedinger’s cat. Keep that man in a box on your phone, and he is everything you want him to be. Who needs reality butting in and ruining your imagined perfection?

It would seem, on these apps, that reality has taken a leave of absence. Reality is now infused with fantasy, and consequently our interactions on these apps have skewed towards becoming, essentially, an artificial role play environment, where guys are seriously entertaining the idea of meeting, but constantly battling with trying to keep reality at bay from the “reality” of what reality may bring when, or if, you actually meet. This results in the behavior so many gay men are now experiencing in huge numbers; cold feet cancelling, flakiness and avoidance.

So it’s not that everyone is lying about their intentions, it’s just that most guys are subtly deceiving themselves into thinking that they want to meet so they can continue the interaction with that perfect imaginary man in the Shroedinger’s box. Some hot guy hits you up wanting to meet, and you really want to, but for the “buts” in the back of your head (it’s late, you have work, you’re scared, etc) that stop you. But you imagine you might talk yourself out of the “buts” because stroking off while you are thinking about it, talking about it, etc., can be very exciting in itself, especially with those x-rated pictures filling your chat streams. So cutting off that “virtual” sexy time with the hottie that wants to meet, by definitively saying “no, I can’t because of work” means saying “sayonara,” and who wants to say no to that hunky guy so soon. You have been there on both sides of the conversation, so you know that the guy that seems to insist he wants to meet you probably really does, but he just can’t face the reality of the possibly dead cat in Shroedingers box before him.

Either that or 90% of the guys on the gay apps really are total sociopaths… or… how embarrassing… it’s just me isn’t it? There is something wrong with me isn’t there? I’m too fat. Am I too fat? I am aren’t I? I’m too fat. I knew it…

Damn, i really wanted that second piece of cheesecake too…


Disclaimer. The end of this piece referencing being too fat is satire not intended to poke fun at the terrible effects of the crushing blows to our self-confidence (depression, eating disorders, or throwing shade on others like a needy little bitch, etc.) that we all endure as gay men stuck between the choice of eating cheesecake or getting a man. The struggle is real. But I say just go ahead and eat that cheesecake, fella. It’s delicious and won’t let you down, plus you know. Bears. Grrrr.

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