Dear Jason, I think it’s time for the wider South Florida LGBTQI community to have a kiki about Grindr’s failure to help stem the time of meth addiction in our community.
At a time when we’re talking about breaking up big companies like Facebook for their sheer private data reach and opinion-making power, about regulating YouTube’s ability to drive users to extremism with algorithms, and about Big Pharma’s complicity in the opioid epidemic that killed 47,000 Americans in 2017 with 130 more dead a day (including my own Uncle a few years ago); I think we need to have another national discussion about another powerful company’s abdication of responsibility: Grindr and the fast-growing spread of meth use and addiction in our community.
Major news outlets have approached Grindr on this before but it remains the case that when “We the users” report drug solicitation or use in the app, profiles fail to disappear and folks who self-identify as “meTh users” are not banned or offered information on how to get treatment or the incredible life-destroying harm the use of the drug can cause. For themselves and those of us who love them.
If Facebook can automatically detect that I accidentally uploaded a dick pic (true story), then how come Grindr can’t develop a system that automatically blocks meth-specific red flags like “PNP” (ParTy and Play) or “Tina” where even near-novice users of the app quickly learn the capital “T” or nickname means the person either has - or is looking to use - meth?
Since the advent of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, Obamacare), we’ve had a sea change in discussion on how we talk about drug addiction. Insurers are starting to meet their obligation to cover meth addiction as a healthcare need. Let’s build on that progress and get the men in our lives the help they need.
Grindr is the most widespread hookup and dating app in our community. They have long added features to increase testing, provide education, and tools within the app to keep users safe. I, for instance, can easily disclose that I am a member of the “Poz” tribe, am “Positive undetectable,” and provide my last testing date. They even have Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) information in-app, and in their FAQ online. Why haven’t they been as responsive and safety-focused here with meth?
This disproportionately impacts our community - as gay men and here in South Florida. According to 2016 HHS data cited in an NBC News report from August, gay men use meth twice as much as Americans as a whole. Grindr has to grapple with law enforcement requests for help on substance abuse as they work in stings across the country to battle the meth epidemic impacting folks nationwide.
It shouldn’t fall to resource-hungry police departments and their officers to pose as gay men and raid dealers. That route can lead to violence at the hands of less-than-tolerant officers, hurts drug users by potentially costing them their jobs and social support systems, and perpetuates a drug war when what folks need is love, compassion, and the dignity of easy access to resources and treatment.
As introductions in gay society have moved from the dive bars, dance clubs, bathhouses, and chat rooms of yesteryear to the modern Adam4Adam, Scruff, and Grindr app-dominated era we’re in today, it’s all the more important for the leader in the industry to keep all of us safe, healthy, and able to use the tool to have fun, make friends, and maybe even find partners to spend the rest of our lives with.
Folks already struggling with quitting can find Grindr an impossible place to be. Let’s make it easier for men to retain a sense of normalcy - their social, sex, and love lives - as they work to cope with what is already an incredibly challenging addiction to beat even in the best of circumstances.
Grindr should be a safer space – a more loving and healthy place. Let’s pressure them to make this happen. For those of us who have friends and folks we love on meth now, and for the next generation of Grindr users so they don’t become the meth users of tomorrow.
Intermittent Grindr User, Lifelong Local, Advocate