Shopping for “interesting people”: Chinese homosexual men’s research of relationship development on dating apps

Article Information

Shangwei Wu, Department of Media and correspondence, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Woudestein, Van der Goot building, M8-16, P.O. Box 1738, Rotterdam, NL-3000 DR, the Netherlands. E-mail: email protected

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Cellphone dating applications play a role that is prominent Chinese homosexual men’s social life. Centered on in-depth interviews with 21 individuals, this research explores exactly exactly how metropolitan gay singles in Asia develop social relationships on dating apps. It reveals that relationship development is oftentimes driven by casual conversations, that are not motivated by clear pragmatic purposes. Casual conversations have a tendency to unfold around typical hobbies or experiences, serving being a way to obtain sociability, or satisfaction in socializing it self. Contrary to casual conversations, two types of conversations are deemed very instrumental and undesirable: a person may be the sex-oriented discussion directed at instant intimate encounters; one other could be the interrogative conversation by which people ask personal concerns in a nonreciprocal and way that is rigid. Besides wanting sociability, users “relationalize” casual intercourse by seeing it as a type of social connection and endowing it aided by the prospective to foster a relationship. That is additionally reflected in users’ preference for intimate lovers with who they could hold a discussion. Users also exploit the affordances of different news platforms and capture the connection potential by platform switching. They change to the main-stream news platform WeChat to get more communication that is synchronous to get more identification cues from one another. Platform switching also signals willingness for relationship development and shared trust. However, users keep going back again to dating apps for brand new opportunities for social relationships.


Cellphone applications that are dating or “dating apps, ” have triggered social debates about love and intercourse. Notwithstanding the different and frequently entangled motives users have actually (Timmermans & De Caluwe, 2017; Ward, 2017), dating apps are continuously described as “hook-up apps” by scientists, particularly in homosexual dating application studies (Albury & Byron, 2016; Davis, Flowers, Lorimer, Oakland, & Frankis, 2016; MacKee, 2016; Race, 2015a). Affordances of dating apps be seemingly manifest within the facilitation of casual sex (Licoppe, Riviere, & Morel, 2015; MacKee, 2016) in place of “serious” relationships (Chan, 2018; Yeo & Fung, 2018). Offered the mixed motivations reported by users, coupled with a tendency of researchers therefore the news to promote a mainly casual sex script, dating app studies could reap the benefits of a wider viewpoint as to how and exactly why individuals utilize dating apps. We try this by centering on social relationships, understood to be “connections that you can get between those who have recurring interactions which are identified by the individuals to possess individual meaning” (August & Rook, 2013, p. 1838), and now we ask listed here question: how can users initiate and develop social relationships on dating apps?

With this particular concern, we glance at the Chinese context. Dating apps have actually gained an incredible number of Chinese users that are gay. Although China’s “Great Firewall” has limited the online world link with international relationship apps ( e.g., Tinder and Grindr), these apps continue to be very popular among metropolitan users whom make use of a digital personal system (VPN) to rise the firewall. Meanwhile, regional apps thrive when you look at the haven that is safe by the “Great Firewall. ” Blued, by way of example, has significantly more than 40 million registered users worldwide, around 70% of who are from Asia (Cao, 2018). In China alone, Blued has a lot more than 3 million daily users that are activeHernandez, 2016).

With this specific research, we aspire to know how solitary metropolitan Chinese men that are gay social relationships on dating apps. We explore their use habits, their objectives of online dating sites, and their understandings of casual sex, or intercourse outside of the stereotypical relationship that is romantic. We assess just exactly how these factors intermesh aided by the technical affordances of dating apps. Before presenting our analysis, we first review the literary works from the affordances of dating apps and homosexual users’ sexual methods.

Literature review

Affordances of dating apps

Affordances are based on the connection between subjective perceptions of energy and objective qualities of items (Gibson, 1979). The concept of affordances underlines the “mutuality of actor intentions and technology capabilities that provide the potential for a particular action” (Majchrzak, Faraj, Kane, & Azad, 2013, p. 39) in media technology studies. In connection with affordances of dating apps, their capabilities that are technological manifest many prominently through their interfaces. Even though browsing interfaces of dating apps tend to be more or less not the same as each other, they may be able efficiently be classified into two kinds (see Figure 1 ). One kind features a list view, presenting a selection of nearby users’ profiles in descending purchase of geographical proximity. This kind includes the preferred apps that are gay-specific such as for example Grindr and Blued. It’s possible to begin a discussion with any user shown in the display. One other kind gift suggestions one solitary profile at a time. Users want to swipe left or close to the profile to signal their dis/interest in developing an association. Private texting is achievable only once both users signal their attention. Representatives with this kind are Tinder additionally the Chinese homosexual application Aloha.

Figure 1. The screenshots show the interfaces of Blued (left) and Aloha (right), two apps that are dating by Chinese organizations.

Regardless of the differences between these kind of apps, their shared affordances are instead salient whenever dating apps as an entire are when compared with other news platforms. Comparison is achievable within the sense that various objects make it possible for particular affordances to various degrees (Treem & Leonardi, 2013). As an example, a cellular phone has a greater degree of portability compared to a laptop (Schrock, 2015). To comprehend the affordances of dating apps, scientists have actually compared dating apps with dating websites. Chan (2017) argues that five affordances differentiate dating apps from dating sites: (a) flexibility, (b) proximity, (c) immediacy, (d) authenticity, and ( ag ag e) artistic dominance. First, dating apps afford mobility—they can be properly used anywhere whenever you want, given that they run using portable devices such as for instance smart phones and pills. 2nd, while dating sites link people in broader areas, dating apps connect users that are in each other’s instant proximity. 3rd, impromptu offline meeting, or immediacy, is much more attainable on dating apps. 4th, on numerous dating apps, users’ reports could be connected to other social media marketing records ( e.g., Facebook and Instagram), supplying a certain standard of authenticity. Finally, as a result of program designs of dating apps, which highlight users’ profile images, dating apps tend to be more aesthetically dominated than dating sites. Lutz and Ranzini (2017) point away similar dating app affordances, and additionally note the presence of links with other social media marketing records as further types of recognition.

These research reports have two primary limits. First, dating apps are merely when compared with dating internet sites, not to ever other news platforms. Within an environment of “polymedia” (Madianou, 2015) with numerous communicative possibilities made available from news technologies, individuals exploit the affordances of several various news platforms to handle their social relationships. Scientists have noted that dating application users have a tendency to continue their relationship on other news platforms such as for example WhatsApp (MacKee, 2016; Ward, 2016). The way the differences in affordances donate to this platform switching needs to be analyzed. In this extensive research, we place dating apps in a more substantial image of polymedia, where in actuality the richness of news platforms allows platform switching for the duration of relationship development. By maintaining an eye fixed on platform switching, we aim to know just exactly what apps that are dating and cannot afford for gay men’s relationship development.

Second, this relative way of affordances is mainly centered on technical features and it has ignored the nuances in users’ subjective perceptions of technological energy. Since affordances are where those two aspects intersect, researchers must also probe users’ perceptions of what they are able to do with dating apps, along with the norms that are underlying values that put up a variety of appropriate behaviors. These perceptions are inevitably connected to a settlement of this connection between relationship development and sex that is casual. Within the section that is next we therefore review appropriate studies to recapture the complexity in this negotiation.

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