Dispatches from the Empire

Grindr’s Plan to Squeeze Its Users

Grindr plans to boost revenue by monetizing the app more aggressively, putting previously free features behind a paywall, and rolling out new in-app purchases, employees say. The company is currently working on an AI chatbot that can engage in sexually explicit conversations with users, Platformer has learned. According to employees with knowledge of the project, the bot may train in part on private chats with other human users, pending their consent.

I remember the very early days of Grindr. I had one of the only smartphones in my part of the state, and the nearest fellow user was nearly 250 miles away. Chatting with other gay men was fun and refreshing.

Much has changed in the intervening 15 years. Dating (or hookup) apps have become vast wastelands of algorithmic sameness. People on these apps look, act, talk, and behave in eerily similar ways, not unlike how every young person now dresses like an "influencer." (I refuse to use that word without quotation marks.)

These apps gave us corrosion sold as connection. I'm reminded of David Foster Wallace's thoughts on entertainment, about always wondering what's on the other channel, wondering if there's something better to be watching. Shopping around (because that's precisely what these apps are: shopping) is so damn easy.

Contentment is hard when you think there's always something better just around the corner.