Ground to Bits


Oh my God, so, I just deleted Grindr from my phone.”


I just said that as if it is some sort of grand accomplishment…

As the barrage of mobile hookup apps such as Grindr, Tinder, Scruff, etc. continue to increase, the media is focusing on the apps’ implications for and effects on society. And for good reason. As Details points out, the number of reported cases of “the big three” STDs — gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis — are rising. Fast. Are you fucking anyone who frequents the Chelsea neighborhood of New York? Wrap it, twice. Chelsea has the highest syphilis infection rate in the country. In New Zealand, at least three gay men on Grindr were targeted by a criminal who promised them sex. When the man arrived to the victims’ homes, he threatened them with a machete before robbing them.

If you’re reading this and you still use these mobile applications: kudos! We’re alive! I’m grateful to say I have never been threatened or harmed on Grindr. Nor have I (yet) contracted an STD. My growing issue with online hookup-apps isn’t derived from fear…

Asshole 1

Asshole 2

It’s derived from an increasing number of shirtless, white men telling everyone who differs from them they aren’t good enough to fuck, or even speak to. Let us break this down a bit.

First, take the shirtless, faceless picture. The mystery man, undoubtedly ugly, or perhaps stuck in the closet, doesn’t want you to know anything about his interests, personality (though we can guess what kind of a person he is), or lifestyle. Okay, that isn’t entirely accurate. He wants you to know he’s horny, physically strong, and racist. He wants you to admire something — his body — implying it is more important than his thoughts and interests which ultimately make up what type of person he is. He wants you to know that your skinny or unfit body doesn’t deserve his attention.

Asshole 5

Asshole 6

Next, the “whites-only” or “no fems, blacks, asians, etc.” tagline. I completely understand having a “type”. If you look at the roster of men I’ve dated, fucked, kissed, etc., most of them are white, have a little bit of scruff, and are shorter than me. I won’t call it a coincidence, but those traits certainly are not the only ones I actively seek out. If I had to choose a “type”, the traits I find attractive include: skinny, heavy, hairy, non-hairy, black, asian, white, latino, masculine, feminine — but more importantly, intelligent, driven, a good listener, honest, but not sarcastic, and capable of dealing with my moodiness. I’m not embarrassed to admit it took me awhile to open up to such a broad group of people. Like these close-minded torsos on Grindr, I was once in a dark place where rejecting others actually felt comfortable.

Before first coming out at age 18 and even a few years after, I loathed drag queens. I didn’t understand why a man would want to portray himself as a woman. I couldn’t grasp exactly what satisfaction a man derived from putting on a dress and a wig and heels. Anyone who knew me in college can attest to me overusing the phrase,“If I wanted to date a woman, I would do so.” As I grew older, moved to the passionate and very-OUT city of Chicago, and began meeting and falling in love with other queer individuals — drag queens included — I began to understand my resistance to people I didn’t understand. Like these faceless torsos, I too was afraid to accept something — effeminate men — as I was fearful of accepting that trait within myself. Once you break that barrier and portray a certain part of yourself to the world, there’s no going back. Luckily, I had open and accepting friends, family, and a job which allowed me to grow beyond my hateful way of thinking and accept myself (and others) for who and what we are. I’m 26 now…I wear heels, paint my nails, and get annoyed with people who mistake impeccable fashion sense as “dressing like a woman.” Perhaps these shirtless, “masc”, seemingly invulnerable group of men work in a corporate world that doesn’t allow gender expression outside the norm. Maybe their religious parents would never accept an effeminate son. Whatever internal issues they’re struggling with, those are far more dangerous and damaging to the host than the rejection I feel as a result of their inexperience with unfit, effeminate, non-whites.

Whether we like it or not, this technology age in which we live forces us to crave instant results from any particular action we take. We hope that ordering a package from Amazon, a cup of coffee from Starbucks, or in this case, an online chat with a stranger, will yield instant results. When a handsome guy messages me, I feel instantly empowered. When a 62 year old messages me asking if I’m “hung”, I feel icky. When I message someone else and they do not respond, I feel rejected and ugly. Think about how this differs from the generations which arrived before us. In order for our parents (and even more-so our grandparents) to feel these same emotions, it took seeing someone, approaching them, talking to them, perhaps meeting multiple times after, then deciding whether or not to continue toward a deeper relationship, or end it. For me and other 80’s/90’s kids, all it takes is the tap of a little yellow icon and a quick scroll through some photos to feel confident and determined or outraged and self-conscious.

I didn’t erase Grindr from my phone to avoid rejection — in fact, I embrace it. When I seek a connection with someone, I want us to meet and get to know one another before deciding whether we find each other interesting or attractive. I didn’t erase Grindr to run from this epidemic of “masc4masc” requirements. It isn’t my job to message closed-minded individuals and tell them their way of thinking is dated and supremacistic. Maybe I am naive to think I will find anything except sex on Grindr. But, regardless of what anyone is looking for on one of these apps, the voices of friends and advocates for gender fluidity and racial equality who use Grindr all seem to be finding one thing: hours wasted by scrolling through a community of bigots who offer nothing beyond frustration and confusion.

Still, even after knowing and accepting all of these details, Grindr is currently back on my iPhone, hiding on the last screen, out of sight, until just the right amount of alcohol (a sip) is coursing through my bloodstream. I just asked a 33-year old if the car he’s in is an Audi. Oh, it’s a “BMW X5”…”Even better. How are you?” I ask. Hopefully we’ll meet up, go out to dinner, then he’ll run me over with his car. When I wake up in the hospital bed, I’ll finally erase this app for good. Maybe.


My Dear, Dear Friends.

How long have you known your best friend? A year? Five years? More than ten? Most likely, you’ve seen each other through everything significant: first love, first fuck, tough times with family members ― or, perhaps they were the first person to put up with your sarcasm and shitty attitude, which, up to this point, most people couldn’t stand. The love between you two is strong because you have seen one another, since the earliest days, at your worst, and neither of you are afraid to share painful truths. And you, knowing they come from a place of compassion, accept their feedback, expressing your gratitude with tears of joy.

But, beware: this nice shit is over.

The days of humility and compassion are dwindling; fading into a machine world of bytes, swipes, and data. In this so called “Information Age”, we are obsessed not with technology as a means to connect to others or to gain knowledge. We instead use phones, tablets, Macs, and their corresponding apps to do two things: lust over people and things we cannot have, and cater to others’ strengths/weaknesses to get the most “Likes” on our pictures and comments.

I’m certainly not innocent of this ― I can’t express the amount of time I’ve spent configuring my dream cars online, ticking and un-ticking the options boxes to get the best price, then calculating what the monthly payments would be. Perhaps worse, people are hyper-obsessed with pointless, brain-melting games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood because it only takes two hours (honestly, in real-time) to meet a famous “idol” (Kim), gain a manager and publicity guru who start a Twitter-fight with another celebrity on your behalf to, you know, boost your followers, become a model, and buy whatever clothes and jewelry you want.

In this Insta-Age, we use the information that is readily available to give ourselves and others a new perception. Running late? I can order an UberX driver and pretend to be timely. House a mess? I can tap the GetMaid app and order someone to my residence within two hours to clean that shithole right up. Diplo once liked and retweeted a comment I made a few years ago, and my first instinct was to take a screenshot and post a picture on every social networking site on which I had an account. “LOOK AT ME! I’M IMPORTANT! MY FRIENDS WHO LIKE DIPLO WILL SEE THIS AND LOVE IT (OR, BE JEALOUS AS FUCK, WHICH WORKS, TOO!)” We no longer want to help others or share valuable information. We want to buy for ourselves and pretend to be someone we are not. Insta-uh-oh.

Our friends, the ones to whom we should have the most loyalty, are now the most disposable. As magazine covers increasingly showcase chiseled bodies and Instagram features the rich, famous, and most-liked, we try and hide our flaws as much as possible, fearing they make us unworthy of attention or front-page stardom. The secrets of our past, or any association with a D-list lifestyle, has to be eradicated in order to build a new internet personality ― An Insta-Me, capable of on-demand feelings, looks, and emotions based on what our followers want or what we want to show them. Tinder, Instagram, Grindr ― these tools let us find new friends instantly based exclusively on how they look and our perception of their personality. “Shit, he has 4,000 followers, a boyfriend he loves, and is very stylish! ADD!” I met this person I’m describing at a bar recently. He was hanging out with a crowd notorious for shitty and immature behavior. He did not look like the man I saw in the pictures (which isn’t bad, just not what I expected). And, much to my dismay, he ended up pulling me aside, kissing me, and asking me to leave with him. I ran (literally) out of the bar. His poor boyfriend; oblivious, just like I was.

This song isn’t new; “We All Want What We Can’t Have (Right Now).” Fortune. A car. Perfect sex. Beyonce’s “talent”. World peace. So, we drop people, our close friends, because they know our flaws; they’re old news; they don’t have a big following, so their views and opinions must not really matter. We believe we can change the perception of our followers enough to take us with them to stardom. Imagine this scenario: Instead of spending your weekend with your best friend who’s visiting from the east coast (whom you haven’t seen in years), you spend your night drinking and fucking some dude you’ve only known for twelve hours. You oversleep and miss breakfast the next morning. Seven hours later, you are STILL hungover and don’t make it to dinner. Your friend, the one visiting, has typically stood by your side during altercations of this severity, but not this time. This was your last chance to show compassion..your love. But, you blew your chance ― just to blow a stranger.

Long-lasting relationships ― the ones built upon trust, loyalty, and honesty ― are precious. Cherish them. The beautiful person you find on Instagram, the Tindee who also likes Humans of New York and the movie Amélie; while they may be someone worth your time, your longest-lasting and genuine friendships are worth more. More than clothes, sex, or fame. Once these friendships are gone, they’re gone. And what’ll you have? You’ll have 900 followers on Instagram, 875 of whom you’ll never meet, and 850 of whom think you’re someone else.

View more awesome illustrations and photographs by my friend Josh Zoerner at