“Tired of stigma? So are we.”
That’s the tagline of the NiceAF campaign, which encourages kinder, more respectful behavior and language on GBTQ dating apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and Jack’d. While the popularity of these types of dating apps has grown immensely over the last decade, so have users complaints about their toxicity.
The NiceAF campaign recently released a report with the results of a survey about what app users want to see happen to create a kinder, safer, and less hostile dating environment. The survey was conducted from April through June of this year, and included 5,500 responses from app and site users.
The survey’s summary states that toxic and abusive language guised as preferences — such as “No fats,” “No femmes,” and “Clean only” [no HIV], and “their derogatory implications are all too prevalent. 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 gay and bi men online is associated with greater risk for HIV and symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
“The No. 1 recommendation from app users was that they want unlimited blocks and we don’t want to have to pay for it,” said Jen Hecht, a queer woman who cofounded Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), to the Bay Area Reporter. “We know queer people face discrimination externally, but when negativity happens within the community that can have a negative impact on mental health and well-being ... more harmful than the external negative experience.”
The 36-page report also gives recommendations for the apps based on the survey respondants’ answers, which includes unlimited blocks, more profile customization options, expanding filtering ability, and prioritizing the needs of users who experience stigma in future development.
Dan Wohlfeiler is a gay man who has been working in HIV and STI prevention for decades who cofounded BHOC with Hecht.
According to Wohlfeiler, these apps especially need to “prioritize people of color and trans people,” who often bear the brunt of discrimination in app settings. As one trans respondent stated in the survey, “Many 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.”