Gay dating app users want less toxicity

The NiceAF campaign – which encourages people to be nicer to each other on GBTQ dating apps – published the results of a survey on what app users want to see to facilitate more communication in a report. kind and best.

“The # 1 recommendation from app users was that they wanted unlimited blocks and we didn’t want to have to pay for it,” Jen Hecht, a queer woman co-founder of Building Healthy Online Communities, told The Bay. . Zone reporter last week.

As BAR reported last year, popular dating and pickup platforms such as Grindr, SCRUFF and Jack’d have teamed up with BHOC to create the NiceAF campaign. The campaign was launched with a video contest that ended on July 2, 2020, asking people to share their personal experiences with stigma (such as race, HIV status, or body shame) and belligerent behavior over women. applications.

Subsequently, Hecht said, the campaign ran a survey from April to June 2021 that ultimately included 5,500 responses from app and site users.

“While gay, bi and trans people have long faced discrimination, stigma and hate speech outside our communities, the way we treat each other online can also cause harm,” the summary states. of the report. “Users of gay dating apps and sites can harm others because of their race, gender identity, age, height, disability, or because they are living with HIV. “

Negative language from app users has derogatory impacts on others, the summary says.

In fact, studies have shown that intra-group discrimination in queer communities is more detrimental to an individual’s mental health than discrimination from non-LGBTQ people.

Preferred phrases such as “No Fat”, “No Women” and “Clean Only” [no HIV] and “their derogatory implications are far too widespread,” the summary says. “Yale University researchers John Pachankis, Ph.D. and Charles Burton, Ph.D. found that for some gay and bi men, being repeatedly rejected by other men gay and bi online is associated with an increased risk of HIV and symptoms of depression. and anxiety. “

Hecht said: “We know that gay people face discrimination on the outside, but when negativity occurs within the community it can negatively impact mental health and well-being… more harmful than the external negative experience. “

Dan Wohlfeiler is a gay man who has worked in HIV and STD prevention since 1987. He co-founded BHOC with Hecht.

“This is the first time that someone has brought together all the apps on things that have a big impact on the mental health of their users,” Wohlfeiler told BAR

Wohlfeiler said many people internalize negative experiences that could be alleviated by changes in app design.

“I was struck by the number of guys who put all the responsibility on the user,” Wohlfeiler said. “‘Just grow a pair,’ ‘don’t be a pussy.'”

While toxicity in queer online spaces is “not a new phenomenon,” Wohlfeiler said, “it’s not that difficult to work with apps to provide them with tools that, with very little effort, can make the experience easier for everyone “.

Recommendations
The 36-page report gives recommendations for future applications based on the opinions of survey respondents.

These include unlimited blocks, more options to customize individual profiles, expand filtering functionality, allow people to use pre-written sentences for different situations, and prioritize the needs of users who experience the stigma. in future development and implementation.

Wohlfeiler said that in development, apps should especially “prioritize people of color and trans people,” who often suffer the brunt of discrimination in app settings. As one trans respondent said in the survey, “A lot of us who are trans see slurs in people’s profiles. Many of us are in vulnerable positions. People will attack you. We should have protection. “

“Applications can never be 100% structurally neutral,” Hecht said. “There are ways apps can change.”

For example, pre-written sentences can “make it easier for someone to respond in a positive way. [to someone] they don’t care. “

Unlimited blocks could also be helpful in preventing harassment. As one survey respondent put it, it is not fair to make people “pay more money to endure less abuse”.

Some apps, such as Grindr, terminated users’ ability to filter by race / ethnicity last year amid the national upheaval that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

However, such measures have proved unpopular.

“A significant percentage of people of almost all races wanted to filter others by race or ethnicity,” the report says. “Many POC users expressed disappointment that race filtering had been removed by some apps and wanted the ability to only see users of specific races or ethnicities. with people who know my culture. Where I live there are no Asians. I am looking for people who are interested in my culture. It’s not always a question of sex. ‘”

Among black respondents to the survey, a majority (55%) wanted to be able to filter others by race and ethnicity.

“In our focus groups, some black participants only wanted to meet other black people to avoid racism, especially being fetishized or rejected because of their race,” the report says.
Not everyone felt this, however, with a plurality of Latinx users saying they didn’t want to be filtered by race / ethnicity. White users were divided between 35% and 35% on the question.

“Some have spoken of how race filtering creates an uncomfortable dynamic,” the report said. “One focus group participant summed it up by saying, ‘I don’t want to be found by my race. I don’t want to educate anyone about the black experience. Other POC users objected to being “screened off the grid”, saying it encouraged gender racism and discrimination. However, a few POC users in our newsgroups expressed that they were not concerned about being “filtered” by white users; for them, filtering people on the basis of their race or ethnicity was a red flag indicating racist attitudes that could lead to ill-treatment. “

Hecht called it a “complex and nuanced problem” with “no clear guidelines that everyone agrees on.”

Hecht also said that “we will work with [the apps] going forward on how to implement “the recommendations. Grindr said he was reviewing the report results to make future changes to the application.

“This is an issue we take seriously,” said Alice Hunsberger, senior director of customer experience at Grindr. “We are already looking for ways to implement the ideas that BHOC has been able to solicit from users.”

SCRUFF and Jack did not respond to requests for comment.

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