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For instance, one user might not know much about another offline, but he might know little things about him from having scrolled through his geotagged social media page.He might even recognize him from his profile photos walking down the street, or in the audience of, say, a recent panel about digital content by and for the queer community.And, in doing so, the likes of Grindr, Hornet, and Scruff are re-creating queer sociability in significant ways.These apps, on the one hand, still allow queer men the messiness of exploring our identities.Hornet, for instance, has been trying to combat the persistent stigma around HIV by providing its users with health facts through various public events and by educating them about HIV prevention.Grindr, too, has been tapping its extensive user base for public health awareness campaigns.It’s a fitting role for apps whose original purpose unquestionably (and unavoidably, given that stigma still forces many men into silence about their health status) contributes to sexually transmitted disease transmission.The companies are activating their networks for political action, too.
Since the 2009 launch of Grindr, the first and most ubiquitous of the set, gay dating apps have racked up north of several-dozen million users in some 200 countries (including Cuba! Grindr says that its users average 54 minutes on the app per day.Dating apps for gay men don’t have the greatest reputation.From Grindr to Scruff, Hornet to Jack’d, the digital platforms are best known for dredging up flakey users, svelte-only fat-shamers, masc-4-masc femme-phobes, and it’s-a-personal-preference racists.Earlier this year, Grindr users might remember seeing in-app notifications about targeted violence against gay men in Chechnya.The pro-Kremlin government in the long-contested region had begun rounding up and abusing dozens, if not hundreds, of alleged homosexual men. They involuntary outed many others to their families in a region where the sexual orientation is considered taboo.While it’s still early days, the publication seems to represent an earnest effort to re-envision the Grindr brand. It’s published a buffet of articles, photography, and videos that cater to a variety of identities and interests.And it’s putting out more than just fluff by featuring topics such as the one-year remembrance of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the “resist march” at Los Angeles Pride, Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister, and the record levels of violence against LGBTQ people in 2016.Grindr for Equality, the app’s advocacy arm, and the Russian LGBT Network, a St.Petersburg–based gay rights group, worked together at the height of the crackdown in April to distribute updates, as well as a hotline number and email addresses for aid and evacuation assistance, via the app.We can cruise furtively through rows of profiles, eking out a string of flirty chats or just going for some unembellished, anonymous sex.Especially for people who might be deeply closeted or marooned in bigoted communities, these services offer keys for investigating what may initially seem like errant feelings of homosexuality.