Grindr Creates Body Issues, Says Study

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Another study is telling us why gay dating apps are unhealthy for us (as if we didn’t already know).

A new study by researchers at the University of Waterloo and published in Body Image states that weight stigma is a serious issue for queer men using dating apps. The app used Grindr, the most popular dating app for gay, bisexual, and trans men in the Western world.

“Dating apps have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade or so and have radically transformed the ways individuals connect with one another,” said Eric Filice, a public health doctoral candidate and lead author. “We were surprised to find that weight stigma is perpetuated by individual users and embedded within the app’s information architecture.”

In order to get their data, the researchers used “an exploratory, qualitative study design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 current and previous Grindr users [from cities in the Greater Toronto Area] and analyzed thematically.”

The results found that participants saw being overweight as a stigma. The researchers hypothesized this is because Grindr encourages anonymity by not requiring names or links to other social media platforms. In addition, the program’s body descriptions (toned, average, large, muscular, slim, and stocky) don’t help.

“Participants recalled their body weight or shape being scrutinized for allegedly being incompatible with their gender expression or preferred position during intercourse,” said Filice. “We think this points to the importance of locating weight stigma within and alongside other intersecting power relations.”

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 “It doesn’t help that because Grindr exists to connect users for dating or sex, physical appearance bears greater cultural salience,” Filice explained. “People often compare their candid, in-person appearance to the meticulously curated or digitally altered appearances of others they encounter online.

He then added: “On the other hand, we were especially compelled by the myriad protective factors and coping strategies that participants suggested help mitigate Grindr’s deleterious effects on body image.” 

That said, Filice doesn’t believe that a war on dating apps will solve anything. Instead, he believes we should be focus on the biggest problems established by dating apps and its users. Then we should target those issues instead of raising our fists at the entire programs themselves.

And at the end of the day, Filice sees the importance of apps like Grindr.

“Many of our participants see Grindr as a necessary evil, as internet-mediated communication has served a unique historical role for gay men in circumventing social, cultural and legal barriers to making connections in public spaces.”

Sources: Eureka Alert

1 thought on “Grindr Creates Body Issues, Says Study”

  1. “We were surprised to find that weight stigma is perpetuated by individual users and embedded within the app’s information architecture.”

    That would be the least surprising thing about Grindr or any app or physical space that caters to gay men. Bars, clubs, apps, bathhouses, you name it and they place fit, muscular, white men above all others.

    “because its pre-set body descriptions don’t acknowledge being overweight (you can be ‘toned,’ ‘average,’ ‘large,’ ‘muscular,’ ‘slim’ or ‘stocky’), most participants in the study perceived being overweight as a stigma.”

    From what I’ve seen most take ‘stocky’ to mean ‘overweight’ and ‘large’ to mean ‘obese/fat’. I doubt anyone sees ‘large’ and thinks there’s a tall person on the other end.

    “Grindr facilitates anonymity more than other apps (it doesn’t require a name or link to other social media platforms)”

    Most gay dating apps don’t require links to other social media platforms, which makes sense considering many men are closeted or discreet.

    I’m no big fan of Grindr, mostly because its interface is crap and it lacks features other apps have had for years, but body image issues for gay men have existed long before Grindr or smartphones. When I came out in ’05-’06 I heard many a complaint about how the local gay bar was a ‘meat market’ where you were treated like crap if you weighed more than 160 lbs. Having said that, I’d be interested to read the actual paper (a quick Google only turned up links to the Eureka article). What were the demographics (age, race, height, weight, income) of the 13 men interviewed?

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