TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Jonathan, a 22-year-old has been depending on dating app for a long time. Jonathan, who admitted of being gay, has been using ‘Grindr’ – a dating app for gay men – since he was in high school. “I don’t know what I would do without it,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan grew up in a conservative family and had to watch his sister being told to leave their house for revealing her sexual orientation, forcing Jonathan to hide who he really is. But the dating app had allowed Jonathan to be himself.
For a long time Jonathan thought that he was not “normal” because in a society where heterosexuality has always been considered as the proper social norm, questions on being attracted to the same sex was never raised by his peers. Furthermore, growing up with the cultural expectations towards his role as a man, Jonathan became increasingly unhappy.
Discovering the dating app introduces him to a whole new world and made him realize that he was not alone. Being able to talk to men and women with the same sexual orientation gave Jonathan confidence.
Although the dating apps help connect Jonathan to other same-sex oriented people, he admitted to struggle in finding people to simply talk because most of the app users are just looking for hook-ups.
Similar to Jonathan, Aditya (20 years old) is also aware that men he meets in dating app are only looking for sex, whereas all he wants to do is to talk to people who feel the same way and share experiences.
Growing up in a conservative family where religion receives highest priority, Aditya kept his sexual orientation a secret for a long time before finally decided to talk with his friends in hope of finding inner peace. “Now I don’t have to lie to myself anymore,” Aditya said.
Joel Simkhai, the founder of Grindr, explains in an interview with the NYTimes that Grindr is a very, very visual experience.” Simkhai added that the visual leads to the drive to desire and to be desired.
In addition to being cluttered with profile pictures showing off muscles, the app uses proximity alert to suggest matching profiles. Robert Exton, founder of a lesbian dating app ‘Her’, points out in an interview with SFWeekly.com that “for guys, knowing that someone is close to you is really important, because guys tend to meet up quickly.” This feature suggested that the app was designed to facilitate hook-ups.
Another Grindr user, Nanang (22), had a different experience compared to Jonathan or Aditya. Nanang said that he had actually went on a date with a couple of guys. In one occasion, Nanang even dated a guy for about a month after a few meetings. However, Nanang’s partner eventually disappeared.
Although it might be a harrowing experience, it does not stop Nanang from using the app. Nanang asserted that “the majority of gay men in Jakarta are of a conservative religious background, therefore they are often very discreet about their sexuality. And dating apps are the places where people can open up about their sexuality.” Nanang also shared his personal opinion, stating that dating app is a medium to find dates. Nanang added that the chances of finding relationship through dating apps are quite slim because the majority of its users only relies on the app for finding sex partners.
Audrey Julia, Dewi Kirana, Marvin Urban (Students of Journalism, Binus International University)
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