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I can filter them by body type, sexual position top, bottom, or versatile , and HIV status. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Today in Boston, two men can walk down the street holding hands without consequence. I created a profile identifying myself as a medical writer looking to talk to men about their experiences. I received about 50 responses including propositions. The most common reason users gave for going on the app is that sex feels great and Grindr makes it accessible, right at your fingertips.

The screen full of half-naked men excites users. Neuroscientists have shown that orgasm causes activation of pleasure areas of the brain like the ventral tegmental area while deactivating areas involved with self-control. And these patterns of activation in men are strikingly similar to what researchers see in the brain of individuals using heroin or cocaine. So when a neutral action clicking on Grindr is paired with a pleasurable response in the brain orgasm , humans learn to do that action over and over again.

This can be a normal pleasure response or it could be a setup for addiction, depending on the situation and individual. Grindr, intentionally or not, also leverages a psychological concept called variable ratio reinforcement , in which rewards for clicking come at unpredictable intervals. You may find a hookup immediately, or you may be on your phone for hours before you find one. Variable ratio reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to reinforce behavior , and it makes stopping that behavior extremely difficult.

Slot machines are a classic example.

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They hold out hope that the next pull will give them the pleasurable sound of coins clanking against a metal bin, and they end up pulling for hours. Now imagine a slot machine that rewards you with an orgasm at unpredictable intervals. This is potentially a powerful recipe for addiction and may explain why one user I spoke with stays on Grindr for up to 10 hours at a time, hoping to find the perfect partner for casual sex.

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Early research on app use and health has focused only on sexually transmitted infections, for instance, rates of HIV among Grindr users, using Grindr to get people tested for STIs, etc. Just last week, Grindr announced that it will start sending users HIV testing reminders and the addresses of local testing sites on an opt-in basis. In less pleasant news, BuzzFeed revealed on Monday that Grindr has also been sharing the HIV status of its users with third-party companies. The company later said it would stop sharing the information. Though there is this new attention to sexual health, both Grindr and the research community have been silent on mental health.

Yet since , more gay men have died from suicide than from HIV. Other dating apps, like Tinder, for example, are now the subject of early research looking at mental health implications. For some users I talked to, the allure of Grindr was not just the rush to feel good. It was to stop feeling bad.

Users told me they log on when they feel sad, anxious, or lonely. Grindr can make those feelings go away. The attention and potential for sex distract from painful emotions. A staggering number of gay men suffer from depression, with some estimates as high as 50 percent. A recent survey of , iPhone users by Time Well Spent , a nonprofit focused on the digital attention crisis, showed that 77 percent of Grindr users felt regret after using the app.

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The users I interviewed told me that when they closed their phones and reflected on the shallow conversations and sexually explicit pictures they sent, they felt more depressed, more anxious, and even more isolated. Some experience overwhelming guilt following a sexual encounter in which no words are spoken.

And yet they keep coming back for that temporary emotional relief. One user told me that he feels so bad after a hookup that he jumps right back on the app, continuing the cycle until he is so tired he falls asleep. Every once in a while, he deletes the app, but he finds himself downloading it the next time he feels rejected or alone. Not all Grindr users are addicted and depressed, of course. Some users I interacted with seem to use Grindr in a healthy, positive way. Why do so many of these men turn to Grindr to begin with?

One year-old user told me that the only places he can find gay men are clubs and Grindr, and both are hypersexualized. The cultures of both intimidate him. The year-old is afraid of rejection, and Grindr shields him from the pain of in-person turndowns. His relationships, he says, start with casual sex on Grindr. Sturb - want to meet with actual guys worldwide. Tired of time in the right with boys and lets you can be tricky.

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