“Someone Else Is Behind The Screen”: Visibility, Privacy, and Trust on Geosocial Networking Apps in India

Annika Pinch*, Jeremy Birnholtz, Shruta Rawat, Aakanksha Bhatter, Dicky Baruah, Alpana Dange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Queer people increasingly use geosocial networking apps (GSNAs), such as Grindr and Blued, to find connections. These apps play a particularly important role in countries such as India, where being visibly queer can carry social stigma, and same-sex intercourse was criminalized until 2018. A key challenge on these apps is self-disclosing enough information to appear authentic and build trust with other users, without drawing unwanted attention, stigma, and safety threats. Careful consideration of when to share information and what to share is critical, but we have a limited understanding of how users make these decisions. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with 36 queer men in 4 smaller urban environments in and near the state of Maharashtra, India, we sought to understand how queer men think about their visibility while using GSNAs. We find that they are primarily concerned with the visibility of the actual GSNA on their phone, especially given many users in this context live with their families and assumptions common in the West, such as one person per device, may not hold. They also worry about the information they disclose on the app itself given this visibility can lead to dangerous situations. We detail how participants try to resolve the tensions around visibility and discuss our findings in relation to conceptualizations of privacy and signaling theory. We conclude with practical guidelines related to the use of these apps in the Indian context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • LGBTQ+
  • dating apps
  • privacy
  • trust
  • visibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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