Of Gaydar and friendships: An interview with Duncan Campbell

Continuing this week’s rainbow-striped edition of The Antipodean Adrift, is another interview featuring a fellow LGBT rights champion, Duncan Campbell. Mr. Campbell is the former Events Officer for SHADES, an inclusive, LGBT-friendly society at The University of Sydney. Here, he discusses the role of social applications like Grindr and Gaydar in the lives of young gays and lesbians at the University.

1. A study conducted in the US has shown that gays and lesbians are active users of social media, more active than their hetero counterparts. Would you say this is true of the University’s students? Why is this the case you reckon? What to you, does the fact suggest?

I think that this would predominantly refer to media such as Twitter and Grindr, and not so much mainstream media like Facebook, which I think most people use to keep in touch with current friends, and organise their social calendar. I think that GLBT people represent a hugely diverse population, and in this way the only thing that really unites them all is their sexuality. Because this group is so diverse, they might not necessarily come across one another in daily life. If statistics are correct, and GLBT people make up 10% of society, then in any area you will meet on average 9 straight people for every 1 day person.

To meet more gay people then, you need to expand your horizons. The easiest way to do this is with social media. For someone who lives in a rural town, where they might not know anyone who is out, their only contact with other gay people is through social media. I don’t think that straight people encounter this phenomenon to the same extent, and for this reason, it is fair to say that gay people would use social media more than others. For young people and university students, this is especially the case. After finishing school, and being thrown into a new world where you don’t know anyone, you want to find people who are similar to you, and who you can be comfortable around.

For students who are still coming to terms with their sexuality, it is also nice to meet others going through the same experience. The easiest and safest way to do this is via social media. In a society where it is still not easy to discuss sexuality with someone you have just met, social media can get the hard part out of the way for you. It can select those who are gay, and who are of a similar age, meaning that you can engage of a deeper level from the beginning just by virtue of the fact that you have something in common that is integral to who you are as a person.

2. How significant are popular applications like Grindr and Gaydar are in shifting the way social relationships are formed? For young gays and lesbians at the University?

I think this is something that is predominantly used by gay men, and less so lesbian women. There are new applications being released for lesbian women, but these have not yet become widespread. I know a few friends who use Grindr, and I think that this works to meet with people who you might like to date. I would say that most of these people would be from around Sydney, and not necessarily at the University however. USyd has a very vibrant social calendar for GLBT students, and I think this means that you can meet a lot of other GLBT students by attending these events. I don’t think I would meet many other USyd students who I didn’t already know if I used Grindr or Gaydar.

These tools would be quite popular though among gay students, and I think they would most often be used to either find relationships or sex.

by Vicki Choh, B. Arts (Media and Communications)

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