Characteristics of App Use
Our results provide evidence that GSN apps are important socialization contexts for most SMM. Participants in our sample reported using between one to nine apps, with an average number of three apps, and up to 3 h of use per day. Grindr was the most frequently selected app, followed by Tinder, a non-SMM specific app, and other social networks like Facebook and Instagram. These results hold similarities to those reported by Queiroz et al. (2019) in Brazil who found Tinder and Grindr to be the most commonly used apps in their sample. According to these authors, Grindr has caused a significant impact on queer communities worldwide, defining a model for similar applications, and changing the way sexual minorities socialize by reducing access barriers and the likelihood of encountering homophobia.
Furthermore, in line with Chow et al.’s (2017) findings in Peru, we found that social media such as Facebook and Instagram were frequently used venues among SMM. In a context such as Ecuador’s, in which homophobia is frequent both in private and public spaces (INEC, 2013), social media may constitute safer spaces for some SMM to socialize and meet romantic partners without necessarily exposing themselves on widely known SMM-specific apps such as Grindr. Future research in the country should identify how non-SMM specific apps are being used as places to chat and meet other queer members. There ong men who only use social media to connect with other SMM, compared to those who use both SMM-specific apps and other applications. As Gudelunas (2012) suggests, social networks are probably being used alongside SMM-specific apps to cross-reference information about potential partners.
Sought and Fulfilled Gratifications
Sought gratifications could provide further insight into app use patterns among the men in the sample. According to our data, getting distracted, connecting with people with a similar sexual orientation, and having sexual encounters were the three most frequently endorsed gratifications. We are aware that these results might be explained by the fact that we explored expectations on different social networking apps, not only those for dating purposes. These findings are similar to those reported by Rice et al. (2012) who found that community building, entertainment, and socialization were the most important reasons for using apps. Nonetheless, we believe these results open new questionings about app use among SMM in the country. Expectations, especially those related to the sexfinder development of connectedness to the queer community may be highly endorsed by men in parts of the country where physical access to queer spaces is limited or may represent physical or psychological risk. Considering that we analyzed the total number of fulfilled and unfulfilled expectations in the sample, future studies should examine specific expectations-such as those related to connectedness-based on age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location (e.g., rural areas).
Regarding fulfilled gratifications, the majority of the respondents felt that their initial expectations had been met when using apps; however, almost half of the participants reported that they had not been able to meet someone to have a stable and romantic relationship with. Due to the strong sexual nature of some apps, especially those directed specifically at SMM, some users may experience dissatisfaction and unmet expectations. Research has reported that apps can become hostile environments to those seeking romantic connections leading people seeking non-sexual relationships to be “judged, ignored or blocked after disclosing their relationship goals with others” (Zervoulis et al., 2020, p. 4). It is possible that not having those expectations met, ultimately affects people’s experiences in the apps and generate the ambivalent feelings expressed by the men in the sample regarding the quality of their experience.