Gay psychiatrist Jack Turban has written a piece in Vox theorising about the impact of Grindr on mental health.
The piece was motivated by recent studies showing that suicide now kills more gay men than HIV.
He reached out to 50 men on the app to discuss their experiences online dating.
Many reported the ease at which they could find sex as a major appeal: “The screen full of half-naked men excites users. With a few clicks, there’s a possibility of meeting a sexual partner within the hour.”
The author worries that the numbers of highly accessible sexual partners can lead to sex addiction in users, comparing the neurological impact (depending on the individual) to that of heroin.
This combines with the phenomenon of ‘variable ratio reinforcement’ – the slot machine-esque reward mechanism that is activated whenever a system dishes out unpredictable positive results.
One user said he often browsed the app for upwards of ten hours in anticipation of meeting the perfect partner.
John Pachankis, an LGBTQ mental health expert at the Yale School of Public Health, added: “I don’t know if it’s an ‘addiction,’ but I know it causes a lot of distress.”
A recent survey by Time Well Spent found that 77% felt regret after using Grindr.
The article reads:
“Some experience overwhelming guilt following a sexual encounter in which no words are spoken. After the orgasm, the partner may walk out the door with little more than a ‘thanks.’
“And yet they keep coming back for that temporary emotional relief. One user told me that he feels so bad after a hookup that he jumps right back on the app, continuing the cycle until he is so tired he falls asleep.”
It was also common to find marriages, relationships and healthy usage on Grindr, however.
The author suggests treatment for negative dating app use may be a way forward, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
Read the full article here.