Hooking Up & Checking Out: The Emotional Consequence of Gay Dating Apps


“In my work with gay men and couples I have observed some concerns with compulsive and distracting use of “gay hook-up” apps.  In my observation, many men have never had the opportunity to gain the social skills associated with healthy dating.  The ability to approach someone they are interested in, the ability to deal and sit with rejection, hold conversation, make eye contact, and perhaps most important to stick with something even when something goes wrong.  My fear is that the upcoming generation has no experience with life before smart phones and the internet.  My fear is that relationships will become disposable and impulsive and coupling will become fake, temporary, and convenient”.  – Nathaniel Currie, LICSW

How many times are you on your favorite hook up app a day? Do you find yourself having difficulty completing tasks or being social because you are constantly on apps? How has your hookup app use impacted the way you see your body? Has it made you appreciate your body more?  Has it made it easier to see gay men as disposable? Has it made you bitter or joyful? Or both?

The answers to these questions are not black and white. While we know that apps have made it easier to connect, what we don’t know is how they have impacted our emotional intelligence, social culture and wellbeing as gay men.   To get some insight on this, I reached out to Nathaniel Currie, a therapist working in Washington D.C with extensive clinical and community based experience with Black and Latino gay men. Nathaniel and I explored questions of how online culture may be helping to connect us and at the same time exacerbate issues of sexual compulsivity and more.

Akili:  Many hook up apps encourage the sharing of stats and measurements in a manner that puts us in direct competition with other “bodies” on the market.   How have you seen this show up in our communities?

Currie: Too many times I have had men come into my office and make statements about people or themselves based on pictures they have seen of other people posted on social media or compare themselves to men they find attractive. Stats and measurements are not just ways to identify how someone might measure up in terms of attractiveness but in gay/bi culture it is also a way of qualifying people… as to say a person is placed in some sort of hierarchy based on levels of fitness, attractiveness and body shape….The bombarding of images is overwhelming to even the most confident, well-adjusted individual.  I don’t know how anybody could not fall victim to some sort of “ego-self” self-doubt in this day and age.

Akili: What are some of the things, in your opinion, that we have gained through having online opportunities to connect? And what do you think we have lost?

Currie: Perhaps the most important thing, in my opinion, is that we have literally begun to function as a global village. [But]  I think with so many perceived options, so many attractive pictures to look at, so much of what we want available, that as a dating community we have, and will continue to have, more and more trouble sticking with one person, making a commitment.  As we find ourselves acting out these behaviors of continuous hooks-ups, month long lovers, and date after date, our perception of love and partnership begins to change. It starts to become something to do, or something you should do.

Read the rest at Newer Negroes.




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