We know Grindr for a lot of things. The hookup app is widely regarded as one of the most popular ‘dating’ apps in the world. With approximately 6 million users and counting last year, the GPS-based service has been growing exponentially in popularity. But we don’t often think of Grindr as a purveyor of social good using its global influence for more than one night stands. Business magazine Fast Company sees its potential and recently recognized Grindr as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in social media. More precisely, “for promoting LGBT tolerance worldwide”.
Sure, in regions of the Middle East where anti-LGBT violence and beliefs prevail, Grindr provides a safe way for local gay men to network and live their truth without risking their lives. And the app often features advertisements for HIV/AIDS awareness and PrEP. Grindr even made its first foray into fashion earlier this year by livestreaming designer J.W. Anderson’s London Collections: Men fashion show.
But by doing more than simply existing, one has to wonder what Grindr is doing that’s so progressive that it’s pushing the LGBT rights movement forward. A quick glance at the company’s Twitter account reveals a hodgepodge of office news, photos of hot guys, and announcements of marriage equality and trans protection legislation throughout the world. The account’s more than 75K followers turn up in droves to like great photos but remain mostly inactive when it comes to posts about activism.
A Google search of the terms “grindr lgbt tolerance” reveals article after article about different politicians and religious figures who were outed after using the app. In Egypt, men have even falsely posed as gay men in an attempt to harm, jail, or punish the country’s gays. Grindr has made it easier for gay men to be tracked down in less progressive societies. And it has made it easier to hide vs. proudly stepping out of the closet.
And let’s be real. Grindr exists for sex first. Yes, you could possibly meet your soul mate there. Yes, you could meet new friends there. But 9 times out of 10, Grindr is used for hookups. And this is a widely known fact far outside of the gay community. It’s referenced in many mainstream TV shows and movies. In fact, Fast Company is the first place where I’ve seen Grindr touted as a major player in LGBT visibility. The app does help with visibility but for all the wrong reasons. It perpetuates age-old stereotypes about gay men’s promiscuity, and just because there are pop-up messages about LGBT causes doesn’t make the company a gamechanger for human rights.
Of all the companies and organizations out there utilizing social media for positive change in the LGBT community, like the Human Rights Campaign or It Gets Better, Fast Company chose to recognize Grindr. I’m not sure this is the type of business visibility we need. And quite frankly, I feel the magazine is overselling Grindr’s positive influence. Here’s hoping that next year’s list includes some gay businesses that truly push our movement forward.