Interested in “interesting people”: Chinese homosexual men’s exploration of relationship development on dating apps

Interested in “interesting people”: Chinese homosexual men’s exploration 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 prominent part in Chinese homosexual men’s social everyday lives. Predicated on in-depth interviews with 21 individuals, this research explores exactly exactly how metropolitan singles that are gay Asia develop social relationships on dating apps. It reveals that relationship development is oftentimes driven by casual conversations, that aren’t inspired 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. In comparison to casual conversations, two kinds of conversations are considered very instrumental and undesirable: one could be the sex-oriented discussion targeted at immediate intimate encounters; one other may be the interrogative discussion by which individuals ask personal concerns in a nonreciprocal and rigid method. Besides craving sociability, users “relationalize” casual intercourse by seeing it as a type of social connection and endowing it with all the possible to foster a relationship. This might be additionally reflected in users preference that is sexual lovers with who they could hold a discussion. Users additionally exploit the affordances of different news platforms and capture the connection potential by platform switching. They change to the main-stream news platform WeChat for lots more communication that is synchronous to get more identity cues from one another. Platform switching also signals willingness for relationship development and trust that is mutual. However, users carry on returning to apps that are dating new possibilities for social relationships.


Cellphone applications that are dating or “dating apps, ” have triggered social debates about love and intercourse. Notwithstanding the many and frequently entangled motives users have actually (Timmermans & De Caluwe, 2017; Ward, 2017), dating apps are continuously known as “hook-up apps” by scientists, specially in homosexual app that is dating (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) instead of “serious” relationships (Chan, 2018; Yeo & Fung, 2018). Provided the mixed motivations reported by users, coupled with a tendency of scientists as well as the news to advertise a primarily casual sex script, dating app studies could take advantage of a broader viewpoint on what and exactly why people utilize dating apps. We do that by concentrating on social relationships, thought as “connections that you can get between those who have recurring interactions which are identified because of the participants to possess individual meaning” (August & Rook, 2013, p. 1838), and then we ask the next concern: Just how can users start and develop social relationships on dating apps?

Using this concern, we go through the context that is chinese. Dating apps have actually gained an incredible number of Chinese homosexual users. Although China’s “Great Firewall” has limited the world-wide-web link with dating that is foreign ( ag e.g., Tinder and Grindr), these apps continue to be very popular among metropolitan users whom make use of digital private system (VPN) to climb the firewall. Meanwhile, regional apps thrive into the haven that is safe by the “Great Firewall. ” Blued, for example, has significantly more than 40 million registered users worldwide, roughly 70% of whom come from Asia (Cao, 2018). In China alone qeep sign in, Blued has significantly more than 3 million day-to-day active users (Hernandez, 2016).

With this particular research, we aspire to know the way single metropolitan Chinese gay men develop social relationships on dating apps. We explore their usage habits, their expectations of online dating sites, and their understandings of casual intercourse, or intercourse outside of the stereotypical relationship that is romantic. We review just how these factors intermesh using the technical affordances of dating apps. Before presenting our analysis, we first review the literary works in the affordances of dating apps and homosexual users’ sexual practices.

Literature review

Affordances of dating apps

Affordances are based on the conversation between subjective perceptions of energy and objective characteristics 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. Concerning the affordances of dating apps, their technical abilities are manifest many prominently through their interfaces. Even though browsing interfaces of dating apps are far more or less not the same as one another, they are able to efficiently be classified into 2 types (see Figure 1 ). One kind has a list view, presenting a selection of nearby users’ profiles in descending order of geographical proximity. This sort includes the most famous gay-specific apps, such as Grindr and Blued. It’s possible to begin a discussion with any individual shown regarding the display screen. One other kind gift suggestions one profile that is single a time. Users want to swipe kept or close to the profile to signal their dis/interest in developing a connection. Private texting can be done only if both users signal their attention. Representatives for this kind are Tinder as well as the Chinese gay application Aloha.

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

Regardless of the differences when considering these kinds of apps, their provided affordances are instead salient when dating apps as an entire are when compared with other news platforms. Comparison is achievable when you look at the feeling that various items permit certain affordances to degrees that are differentTreem & Leonardi, 2013). For example, a mobile has a greater amount of portability compared to a laptop computer (Schrock, 2015). To comprehend the affordances of dating apps, researchers have contrasted dating apps with dating web sites. Chan (2017) contends that five affordances differentiate dating apps from dating internet sites: (a) flexibility, (b) proximity, (c) immediacy, (d) authenticity, and ( e) visual dominance. First, dating apps afford mobility—they can anywhere be used whenever you want, simply because they operate on portable products such as for instance smart phones and pills. 2nd, while dating websites link people in broader areas, dating apps connect users who’re in each other’s proximity that is immediate. 3rd, impromptu offline meeting, or immediacy, is more attainable on dating apps. 4th, on numerous dating apps, users’ records could be associated with other social networking reports ( ag e.g., Twitter and Instagram), supplying a level that is certain of. Finally, because of the screen designs of dating apps, which highlight users’ profile images, dating apps are far more aesthetically dominated than dating internet sites. Lutz and Ranzini (2017) point away similar dating application affordances, and also note the presence of links with other social media marketing records as further sourced elements of identification.

These research reports have two primary restrictions. First, dating apps are just in comparison to dating sites, to not other news platforms. In a environment of “polymedia” (Madianou, 2015) with numerous communicative possibilities made available from news technologies, individuals exploit the affordances of many various media platforms to control their social relationships. Scientists have noted that dating software users tend to continue their conversation on other news platforms such as for example WhatsApp (MacKee, 2016; Ward, 2016). The way the variations in affordances play a role in 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 media platforms enables platform switching for the duration of relationship development. By continuing to keep an eye fixed on platform switching, we aim to know exactly exactly what dating apps can and should not manage for homosexual men’s relationship development.

2nd, this comparative method of affordances happens to be mainly according to technological features and has now ignored the nuances in users’ subjective perceptions of technological energy. Since affordances are where both of these aspects intersect, scientists should also probe users’ perceptions of what they’re in a position to do with dating apps, along with the underlying norms and values that put up a variety of appropriate actions. These perceptions are inevitably associated with a settlement for the connection between relationship development and casual intercourse. Into the next area, we therefore review appropriate studies to fully capture the complexity in this settlement.

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