By Brandon Benarba and Robert Cimino
Although Grindr and Blendr, two social networking applications for iPhone and Android devices, seem at first glance to be geared toward soliciting sex among their communities, their actual use has a wider application than just that.
“I think it’s easier to meet new people outside the app, but Grindr gives me the confidence to talk to people in real life,” Ryan Tiss, a sophomore undeclared major, said.
As it turns out, the intended use of Grindr, an application for gay, bisexual, bi-curious and transgender men looking for sex, is often ignored.
When asked why he uses Grindr, Adam Snyder, a freshman computer science major and Grindr user, replied that he “just wants to make new friends and meet new people.” Not every Grindr user shares Snyder’s intentions. Others partake in the sexual ethos categorized by apps of this nature.
Joey Aubrey, a sophomore theater major and another Grindr user, promptly suggested sex within mere seconds of initiating a conversation, which is one of the intended uses of such an app. In fact, Grindr has a pretty convincing ‘hook-up’ frequency. User Josh Jones reported that through the use of the Grindr app, he was able to get together with about 120 men throughout the course of three years.
This deed was made possible through the use of location-based services. When browsing a user’s profile, Grindr is able to narrow down to the exact foot just how close a match is in proximity to your smartphone. This ten mile radius allows for each user to upload as many men as they want, up until the pixels of their screen are bursting with more than 50 results of potential matches.
Looking back on Grindr’s intended use to initiate hook-ups, this system proves sufficient and meets the demands of the community it serves to support. Additionally, due to the versatility of the app, it is able to support niche communities utilizing the app for its unintended uses.
Blendr, the sister app to Grindr, was created with a larger focus on relationship building and friendly digital discourse. By adding gender and sexuality options to Blendr, Joel Simkhai, creator of both apps, aimed to expand the reach of Blendr beyond the mere hook-up facilitating nature of Grindr. Still, similarities can be seen in the appearances and the communities of both apps.
“A lot of people are only here for hookups and sex,” user D.D. 22, said. “Most are men, but there are also women who only want sex, just not as many.”
To help derive which particular experience the user is looking for, Blendr allows users to set up customizable searches to fit their social needs. It could be forging friendships, relationships or simply a hook-up. Additionally, users are able to further customize their experience by adding hobbies and interests to their profiles. By utilizing the location services built into smartphones in conjunction with the customization options, Blendr is able to find people nearby who share similar interests.
Although sex is still at the apex for some, many Blendr users view the app as a way to feel like a part of a custom-made community.
“I think the app is a great communication tool, especially for those who think they might be the only person on campus of their sexual orientation,” K.G., a sophomore biology major, said.
Although the intended uses of Grindr and Blendr are varied they are serving the communities they were designed to serve in ways Joel Simkhai may not have even predicted.