To many of my straight friends, ending a conversation with a stranger by saying, “Fuck yea … I’m hard just thinking about you cumming over,” would seem really forward and borderline creepy. But in the gay community, apps like Grindr and Jack’d have recently been setting the scene for hookups no matter where you are. Even now, if I open my “dating app” and look at the horny guys nearby probably sitting in their rooms, hands in their pants cradling their hard, thirsty … phones, it’s alarming to think that many of them are less than 1,000 feet away. Gay neighbors on the DL? Possibly. But the fact of the matter is that dating apps are very quickly becoming the norm for people in both the gay and straight communities, with users often looking for more than just casual sex, sometimes even finding relationships with the people they meet.

When my best friend first showed me Tinder, I immediately equated it to Grindr. For those of you who haven’t heard of Grindr, it’s that phone app you probably see your gay friends on when they’re bored or horny. Its premise is simple: local gay guys have profiles that give you their age, weight, preferences and even distance from you. Whether you talk to other guys on the app looking for a hookup or a date is up to you, but recently, the stigma attached to Grindr is similar to that attached to the gay community as a whole — promiscuous sex. That’s why when my friend showed me Tinder, a similar application that allows users to look through other people’s pictures and either “like” or “dislike” them, I assumed it was based on the same sexual premises as its gay older brother.

What’s interesting about Tinder is the fact that you aren’t even given the option of talking to another user unless they “like” you back, meaning that there’s an underlying “I like you, you like me” mutual attraction inherent in every interaction. Another thing I noticed about Tinder is that it lacks the headless torsos that pervade the Grindr-verse. To the breeders — gay slang for straights — out there, headless torsos are guys on Grindr whose profiles are just pictures of their shirtless bodies. What usually follows in conversations with these guys are dick pics, followed by more dick pics, with the occasional “I’d pay you ‘x’ amount of money to blow you.” To blow me? Damn, sounds great. But in reality, most of these headless torso guys seem so STD-ridden that touching them with an actual stick is risky, let alone with my own stick. Because something must be wrong with the picture (quite literally) if you can’t even show your face to the person you’re about to bang.

But back to Tinder. What I find most interesting about the app is that a lot of my friends actually go on dates with the guys/girls they meet on it. Now as a guy who’s trying to move past the hookup culture of Isla Vista, I naturally wanted to make my own Tinder to see what it was all about, so one night last week I threw together a profile. First, I added some pictures of me that weren’t so hideous I wouldn’t get matches, but alternately not so hot that people be disappointed seeing me in person. My “about me” was honest and I made it known that I was “down for whatever, but looking for dates.” Then the rating started, where I had the opportunity to like or dislike guys based on their five pictures and short descriptions about who they were. Immediately, I realized that this app was definitely aimed at finding me love, and I laid in bed excited to wake up to the guys who might be “the one.”

The next morning I woke up to 20-something matches. Stoked, I opened up my Tinder only to find that the majority of the guys I’d matched with were as thirsty as me the morning after a crazy night on DP. I was hoping for something deep; a connection with someone that went farther than wanting to go inside of me. But all I found was the same cheesy “let’s fuck” pick-up lines I was all too familiar with hearing.

I didn’t respond to most of the guys, but will say that I found a couple that were actually interested in taking me out. What I realized was that there is a silver lining surrounding the negative stigmas associated with dating apps: you’ll get out of them what you put into them. My experiences on Grindr and Tinder in the past have been primarily sexual, but my profiles on both literally say that I am “down for whatever” — granted, probably not the best way to catch a winner in a pond of horny toads. What I’ve come to realize is that by adding a little bit of sexual flair in my profiles to keep my options open, I’ve actually blocked out most opportunities to get guys who wanted something serious.

For a long time, I believed the stereotype that often defines the gay community — that we’re all a bunch of sex-crazed rabbits looking to get it in whenever possible. And while that may be true for some, in reality, there are plenty of guys and girls out there who really do want to foster serious relationships in college and beyond, many of whom are doing so using apps like Tinder and Grindr every day.

In closing, I believe that what you get out of dating apps is based on what you put into them. One of my closest gay friends has been in a relationship with his boyfriend for seven months — they’re perfect for each other — and they met on Grindr. One of my roommates though, uses Tinder solely to look for casual sex and I’m trying to find where I fall on this spectrum. So now, I have a date this Thursday with a guy I met on the same app I used to think was just a meeting place for the sexually desperate. In short, whether you’re looking for sex, dates, conversation, a confidence boost or even love, dating apps definitely make good use of the technological age that we’ve all grown up in.

Matt Togni is 753 feet away, horny and “down for whatever.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, January 29, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.