News coverage of the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, has linked him to Jack’d, a dating app for gay men. It’s unclear whether Mateen did in fact use the app. The chief executive of Online Buddies, the company that owns Jack’d, hasn’t been able to confirm or deny that Mateen was a member.
You might not have heard of Jack’d before this week; it’s not as ubiquitous as Grindr or Tinder. According to Online Buddies’ website, Jack’d launched in 2010 and has 5 million users around the world.
I spoke with a Jack’d user in Brooklyn, a 28-year-old Latino who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He’s in an open relationship and uses Jack’d to find other partners. Like bars, every dating app has its own “scene.” And the scene on Jack’d, this man says, is largely people of color looking for other people of color. It’s less anonymous than Grindr, he says, and more geared toward dating than hooking up. People actually fill out their profiles, rather than posting graphic photos.
This man feels a “racial divide” on dating apps. “I’ve had a lot of really racist s— happen to me on Grindr and to a lesser extent on Scruff,” he tells me, comparing Jack’d to other popular gay dating apps. Because Jack’d is mostly people of color, he says, “I don’t have to worry about that.”
Like Grindr or Tinder, Jack’d is a location-based dating app, meaning users can scroll through about 300 thumbnail images of other men on the app who are nearby (see the image above). Clicking on one allows you to open the full profile. Users can browse by location or click check (yes) or minus (no) underneath a guy’s profile, similar to swiping on Tinder.
Like a lot of dating apps, Jack’d has a free version and a paid version. With a free membership, users are limited in how many profiles they can view each day. They can message people without already “matching,” or they can wait until a match is established and then start a conversation.
The Jack’d user I spoke with has seen more closeted men on Jack’d than on other apps. “For whatever reason,” he says, “POC [people of color] aren’t as comfortable coming out. You see a lot more torso on Jack’d than on Scruff, where everyone posts their faces. I imagine that has a lot to do with internalized homophobia in POC communities.”
When this Jack’d user signed on to the app on Wednesday, he saw a message from the app urging more love and less hate, clearly in reference to the Orlando shooting. For a lot of people his age and younger, he says, physical spaces such as gay bars and clubs “aren’t a part of their lives, so they can’t understand how important that can be.”
Instead, Jack’d and other apps become “the entirety of their queer community.” Young gay men are creating community on a one-on-one basis, he says, mediated by the Internet. “I’m a hybrid,” he says, as someone who grew up on dating apps and going to gay bars. “I understand both senses of community.”