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In a Digital Hookup Culture Are We Forgetting How to Date


Dating is much better in the digital age, so long as long as you know what you’re looking for. 

I've never seen a generation love its gadgets more than today's hookup culture. That's no shade -- believe me, that's no shade. I have them all: Grindr, Scruff, Chappy, Tinder, you name it. But in these ever-changing grids of horny hunters, I can't help but wonder: What exactly are we searching for?

I was 22 when Grindr first came out. For many queer guys my age, it was an easy step into what became today's digital hookup scene. Unlike generations that came before us, we're no longer limited to meeting in parks or cruising in public spaces. Sex is like online shopping, and we've embraced the fact that we can get it everywhere.

This column, the first of many, will explore the ins and outs of digital cruising. Specifically, it will be my experiences gallivanting the streets of WeHo in search of love, sex, and well, sometimes both. That's always a plus, right? Of course, the neverending search for authenticity in dating and hookup apps might be a longshot, but I'm nothing if not an optimist.

Whether we like it or not, cruising on apps is part of culture now. In fact, a recent study by Tinder showed that 80 percent of LGBTQ+ people believe these apps have benefited their community. Still, my dilemma has to do with the long-term side effects of virtual connection. How hard is it breaking free of the hookup mindset once you've been in it for so long?

It's hard to unplug. Earlier this year, I asked a guy out. He was a total looker, and we'd been flirting for weeks at the gym. Sometime between his dead lifts and benchpresses, I found an opportunity to connect. I nervously walked over and struck up a conversation. Considering that I'm a writer and I spend virtually my entire day behind a screen, that in itself was a victory.

The date was great, and once it was over we decided to go to his place. We had more conversation followed by amazing sex. Then after the sex was over...we both fell silent. Eventually, the silence became a cue for me to go. It wasn't awkward or mean-spirited. In fact, it felt normal for both of us. But therein lies the rub.

It was too easy for me to veer into a one-night-stand routine where everything is cordial, pleasant, nice, then you have sex and it's, OK, thanks for the lay. Text me later, or not. Was I so used to hookup etiquette that I forgot what it was like to actually date someone in real life? Probably so.

I'm not embarrassed to admit that much of my dating life has been behind a phone screen. I feel safe behind them, and I'm well aware that they mask my own fears of rejection. Unfortunately, that habit is part of our culture today. But for those like me, who wear our hearts on our sleeves, it's also important not to forget what we're searching for.

I've learned that if you are truly going to dive into the apps, you have to be real with what it is you want. Is it sex? Is it the hunt? Is it love? Is it comfort? Is it temporary companionship? Is it just to get off? You rarely find something that you aren't looking for. Or to put it another way, you're always going to find the thing you are searching for -- whether you mean to or not.

My ultimate goal is to discover how digital cruising is impacting our emotional and physical lives from the inside out. I hope my experiences -- as personal as they may be -- will help inspire you to search deeper for what it is you're looking for, outside an app. No matter which direction you swipe, make sure it's the right one.

David Artavia is an award-winning writer andco-editor in chief of The Advocate magazine. Follow his adventures: @DMArtavia

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David Artavia