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Meet the gay man who wants to help LGBTI people live happier lives

Meet the gay man who wants to help LGBTI people live happier lives

Tired of hook-up apps? Grindr, Her, Brenda, Tinder, Gaydar, Chappy and the others on the market surely have a purpose and we love them for that.

Whether it’s a hookup or a date, however, the chances the relationships they spark will turn into something more meaningful over the long term are fairly slim.

Creating valuable, long-lasting connections across the LGBTI community is what some truly want. Yet changing the current approach at queer relationships doesn’t happen overnight.

‘Existing platforms aren’t doing enough’

Photo credit: Joel Smedley

Some might know Rob Curtis as Gaydar’s former Managing Director. We asked Curtis why he’s passionate about this issue.

For Curtis, LGBTI loneliness was a problem that hit close to home.

‘We’ve spent so much time fighting for our place in the world that we forgot to figure out how to be our best selves,’ he says.

Curtis himself has experienced isolation and that unpleasant feeling of not belonging anywhere.

‘It’s tough to grow into your own skin as a queer person,’ Curtis says.

‘Many of us have that little voice in your head whispering that we’re not attractive enough, not interesting enough, not worthy enough.’

We asked him how his time at Gaydar influenced him.

‘What surprised me at Gaydar was learning about how despite all of the progress we’ve made, how many people are still struggling.’

He goes on to point out that Stonewall recently released research showing that about half of queer people suffer from depression in the last year. Moreover, a third of under 26s in the community have attempted suicide.

‘Suicide is now a bigger killer of gay men than HIV is, so clearly existing platforms aren’t doing enough and we can’t afford to lose another generation of queer people.’

That is why Curtis put his time, money and effort into starting his own company: SQUAD SOCIAL, a passion project set to help those looking for friendships and a sense belonging in the LGBTI community.

What is SQUAD SOCIAL?

SQUAD SOCIAL is a new app that’s planned to be launched in early 2019 to help LGBTI people and allies to connect beyond just hook-ups and sex.

‘We’ll be focussed on helping people to find people just like them – whether they’re a creative, into sports, love video games or just hanging out with Netflix.’

The app will soon be available in London, a big city where many can feel lonely.

‘Our vision is to create an inclusive world where all queer people belong. We think technology can help make this happen and to help us feel connected to the community around us. To help us deal with things like loneliness,’ explains Curtis.

With the many dating apps we have right now, finding new people is no longer a problem. On the other hand, finding the right people can be still difficult.

The problems Curtis believes we need to face are of a different nature: being as inclusive as one possibly can and use common interests to bring everyone together. Common interests are exactly what helps to start a great friendship, after all.

‘As a community, we need to evolve if we’re going to integrate and be happy,’ he adds.

‘The defense mechanisms we used back in the 90s don’t work anymore for us or for the younger generations.’

‘We’ve learned from years of social networking that it’s important to have a balanced life online and offline, so we want to get people off of the sofa and to spend time in real life as part of the queer community.’

People spend 61 minutes a day on Grindr

Man using a cell phone
Photo: Unsplash/Felipe Luiz

Curtis also explains that certain dating apps for LGBTI people could make you feel like a piece of meat. That is all about physical appearance and fitting into a certain category: bear, twink, butch, femme and so on. And it is disheartening to see that, after having spent so long rejecting labels, we ended up using them against each other.

‘We need to look beyond our sexuality,’ he says.

‘We need to value each other and don’t hide behind masks and an app.’

Earlier this year, Grindr landed at the number one spot for unhappy users. An astonishing 77% of users said they were unhappy using it and an average spent 61 minutes on it.

Despite the time spent on such apps, users often don’t even move onto the next level of face-to-face encounters. And if they do, a friendship is unlikely.

But Curtis and SQUAD SOCIAL plan change the rules.

‘There’s this magic in hanging out with queer people,’ Curtis also says.

‘Evidence shows that connecting with communities of like-minded people can improve mental health and well-being.’

By claiming that everything comes down to sex, we would make the huge mistake of belittling those magical connections.

‘We have the key to live happier lives’

Tris Reid-Smith, editor-in-chief of Gay Star News says: ‘SQUAD SOCIAL is embarking on an exciting journey to unite our LGBTI community in new and interesting ways.’

‘We’ve loved sharing our ideas with the team and are pleased to offer our support.’

As an LGBTI publication, we are well aware that loneliness in the community, alongside a higher risk of depression for LGBTIs, might turn into a crippling combination, but not all is lost.

‘The good news is that our community is an amazing asset to help us live happy lives,’ says Curtis.

‘And people are hungry to connect with one another so we now just need to support them to do it.’

If you’re looking to connect within the community, SQUAD SOCIAL will lend you a long-overdue helping hand.

Find more about the new app then follow them on Facebook and Twitter and check out their Instagram or see www.squad.social.