On the Grid: Grindr's Reconfiguration of Interactions, Relations, and Practices in the Tourism Context

  • Rachel Katz

Student thesis: Phd


Gay male dating app users have innovatively adopted Grindr as a means to enhance touristic experiences, a phenomenon coined Grindr tourism. The impacts of this novel set of practices, let alone the practices themselves, are not well understood. Grindr tourism is a product of the dating app's fixture in the landscape of what is often uncritically and broadly called "the gay community." However, discursive imaginings of an essentialized, singular community often used by the gay tourism industry undermine nuanced boundaries and prejudices within LGBT+ spaces. By taking a spatial approach, as opposed to a communities-based one, this dissertation investigates international Grindr tourism's social impacts by inquiring into how it reconfigures interactions, relations, and practices. The research project examines Grindr tourism through a case study in Tel Aviv, Israel, a popular international gay travel destination. It utilizes a multi-method qualitative interactionist approach. Nineteen tourists and locals in Tel Aviv, Israel were interviewed. Prior to the interview, six also elected to complete audio diaries recording their Grindr routine. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling with multiple entry points: online and via posters displayed around Tel Aviv. Thematic analysis was employed to examine the data. Following a review of the literature and outlining of the methodology, the PhD dissertation has three empirical discussion chapters. "Coming Out in the Age of Grindr" utilizes Plummer's theory of narratives of life to examine participant biographies of coming out as gay. It addresses how gay selves and identities are formed and built through Grindr. It argues that Grindr allows historical community and travel institutions predicated on physical space to be circumnavigated, and that Grindr also brings about new imagined institutions that people come out into. The chapter "'A Match Made in Heaven?' Situating Tourists and Locals" outlines practices that constitute Grindr tourism. It analyses tourist-local interactional dynamics of mutual exoticization and eroticization that challenge sociologists' expectations of empowered tourists and exploited locals. Theories of hegemonic masculinities and resistance are engaged to understand how the relations developed between locals and tourists draw on and generate capitals for both groups. The project finds that despite dominant sociological narratives of tourists as only interested in casual, temporary encounters with locals, in reality tourists narrate imagined futures with locals. In turn, locals pursue relations with tourists in order to build on notions of themselves as cosmopolitan. The chapter "Feeling Their Way? Grindr Norms, Etiquette, and Affects" pinpoints Grindr norms and how they work to create new regimes of online behavior. Users also resist regimes by pushing for a "Grindr etiquette" underpinned by spatial hierarchies predicated on offline space. Theories of context collapse and impression management provide explanations for how people imagine Grindr spatial norms, how norms are negotiated with others, and how these interactions generate affect. In conclusion, this thesis offers insight into how geolocative mobile technologies impact everyday social relations at transnational and local levels. In the case examined, Grindr tourism perpetuates inequalities by invoking hegemonic masculinities, sexualities, and bodies through the ideal of Mizrahi masculinity. Yet at the interpersonal level, Grindr is availed by users as a site for resistance to norms deemed problematic. Fundamentally, Grindr illustrates how people narrate and negotiate selves within digital spaces that that permeate past online-offline divisions.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPenny Tinkler (Supervisor) & Brian Heaphy (Supervisor)


  • masculinity
  • mobile media
  • geolocation
  • spatial
  • online dating
  • digital studies
  • online
  • tourism
  • Mizrahi
  • Tinder
  • hegemonic masculinity
  • impression management
  • geography
  • digital geography
  • space
  • Internet
  • identity
  • ghosting
  • Israel
  • Grindr
  • Grindr tourism
  • dating apps
  • dating app tourism
  • LGBT
  • LGBT+
  • dating app
  • gay
  • Tel Aviv
  • media studies
  • media
  • homosexuality
  • communication
  • sociology
  • coming out

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