Guest post by Tom Bruett
Gay hookup apps, like Grindr and Scruff, are the main way gay men are meeting one another today.
According to a study cited in Michael Hobbes’ important article, Together Alone, the Epidemic of Gay Loneliness, 70 percent of gay couples today meet online.
A personal challenge
If you’re single or in a non-monogamous relationship, chances are you’re familiar with the apps I’m talking about. Professionally, I’m a psychotherapist who works with gay men and couples in San Francisco, California. Personally, I was feeling frustrated with the process of making new connections online and wanted to experiment with taking a hiatus from the apps.
So I recently deleted the gay hookup apps off my phone and the result is I feel less lonely and more connected.
What happened when I deleted the gay apps
As a psychotherapist who has the privilege of working with the LGBTQ community, I know that as gay men we’re not always kind to one another.
You may feel daunted to enter a gay gym or bar and remain confident in yourself. It makes a lot of sense that you’d turn to apps to help with those social pressures.
However, I found that I was spending way too much time online and wasn’t making many lasting connections in my offline life.
Many gay men have a love/hate relationship with the hookup apps. I myself have deleted and re-downloaded them a couple of times in the past. This time I was making the choice more consciously, with the intent of noticing my feelings around the change.
The data about Grindr users and my results
According to a study, Grindr app users spend an average of 165 minutes, or 2.75 hours, a week inside the app. That time is being spread out over 88 active sessions per week.
In my own anecdotal study, I didn’t calculate the time I was spending in the apps each week before I started. What I did notice was my emotional experience and behavioural changes that came about as a result of deleting the apps.
Surprisingly enough, after one week I found myself feeling less lonely. In the past, when I had time to kill, I’d open Grindr and scroll through the endless, highly curated profile photos. Occasionally I’d send a message, but more often than not I’d feel bad about myself for one reason or another. As they say in 12-steps, it was hard for me not to compare my insides to everyone else’s online profiles.
People typically put some amount of effort into making their online persona represent them in a positive way. Now that I’ve had a few weeks away from the hookup apps, I notice that when I was using the apps, I tended to compare my insides to everyone else’s outsides.
I would feel lonely and left out when I’d scroll through the profile pictures on the apps. I’d feel rejected if my messages were ignored or I did not receive enough positive feedback from headless torsos. The apps were not improving my quality of life.
My progress one month in
It’s been a month now since I’ve deleted the gay apps. My experience of the experiment has been surprising. I find I’ve been reaching out more to friends. If I see a cute guy out and about, I can no longer reach for my app to check if he’s online. I must muster the courage to say hi and reach out in real life.
I can’t say the experiment has been without challenges. It’s been hard for me to be vulnerable and reach out to people in real life. I haven’t decided yet what the future holds for my relationship with hookup apps.
For the moment, I’m encouraging myself to be more courageous, open, and vulnerable.
If you’re feeling brave, I challenge you to take a break from the apps yourself and notice what your experience is like. What have you got to lose?
About Tom Bruett
Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom primarily works with gay men looking to feel more connected in their life and relationships. For more information please visit his website, or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.