Searching for “interesting people”: Chinese men’s that are gay 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, holland. E-mail: email protected

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Cellphone dating applications play a prominent role in Chinese gay men’s social everyday lives. According to in-depth interviews with 21 individuals, this research explores exactly how metropolitan singles that are gay China develop social relationships on dating apps. It reveals that relationship development is frequently 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 supply of sociability, or satisfaction in socializing it self. As opposed to casual conversations, two types of conversations are considered very instrumental and undesirable: a person may be the sex-oriented discussion targeted at immediate sexual encounters; one other could be the interrogative discussion by which individuals ask private concerns in a nonreciprocal and way that is rigid. Besides wanting sociability, users “relationalize” casual intercourse by seeing it as a kind of social connection and endowing it utilizing the prospective to foster a relationship. It is additionally mirrored in users’ preference for intimate lovers with who they are able to hold a discussion. Users additionally exploit the affordances of various news platforms and capture the connection potential by platform switching. They switch to the main-stream news platform WeChat to get more synchronous interaction and to gather more identification cues from one another. Platform switching also signals willingness for relationship development and trust that is mutual. Nevertheless, users keep working returning to apps that are dating brand brand new opportunities for social relationships.


Mobile phone dating applications, or “dating apps, ” have actually triggered social debates about love and intercourse. Notwithstanding the many and sometimes entangled motives users have (Timmermans & De Caluwe, 2017; Ward, 2017), dating apps are constantly known 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 when you look at the facilitation of casual intercourse (Licoppe, Riviere, & Morel, 2015; MacKee, 2016) as opposed to “serious” relationships (Chan, 2018; Yeo & Fung, 2018). Because of the mixed motivations reported by users, along with a propensity of scientists while the news to market a sex that is primarily casual, dating app studies could take advantage of a wider viewpoint as to how and exactly why individuals utilize dating apps. We repeat this by centering on social relationships, understood to be “connections that you can get between those that have recurring interactions which can be sensed by the participants to possess meaning that is personal (August & Rook, 2013, p. 1838), so we ask the next concern: how can users start and develop social relationships on dating apps?

Using this concern, we consider the Chinese context. Dating apps have gained scores of Chinese users that are gay. Although China’s “Great Firewall” has limited the world wide web link with international relationship apps ( ag e.g., Tinder and Grindr), these apps remain very popular among metropolitan users whom make use of a digital personal network (VPN) to climb up the firewall. Meanwhile, neighborhood apps thrive when you look at the haven that is safe by the “Great Firewall. ” Blued, for example, has a lot more than 40 million registered users worldwide, around 70% of whom come from Asia (Cao, 2018). In China alone, Blued has a lot more than 3 million day-to-day active users (Hernandez, 2016).

Using this research, we hope 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 intercourse, or intercourse away from stereotypical relationship that is romantic. We determine just how these factors intermesh using the technological affordances of dating apps. Before presenting our analysis, we first review the literature in the affordances of dating apps and gay users’ sexual methods.

Literature review

Affordances of dating apps

Affordances derive from the discussion between subjective perceptions of energy and objective characteristics of items (Gibson, 1979). In news technology studies, the idea of affordances underlines the “mutuality of star motives and technology capabilities that provide the possibility for the particular action” (Majchrzak, Faraj, Kane, & Azad, 2013, p. 39). 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 distinct from each other, they may be able effectively be classified into two kinds (see Figure 1 ). One type features a list view, presenting a variety of nearby users’ profiles in descending order of geographic proximity. This kind includes the preferred gay-specific apps, such as for instance Grindr and Blued. One could begin a discussion with any individual presented regarding the display screen. One other kind presents one profile that is single a time. Users need certainly to swipe kept or directly on the profile to signal their dis/interest in developing a link. Personal messaging is achievable only if both users signal their attention. Representatives of the type are Tinder and also the Chinese homosexual application Aloha.

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

Inspite of the differences when considering these kinds of apps, their provided affordances are instead salient whenever dating apps as an entire are in comparison to other media platforms. Comparison is achievable when you look at the feeling that various items make it possible for specific affordances to various levels (Treem & Leonardi, 2013). As an example, a cell phone has a greater amount of portability compared to a laptop (Schrock, 2015). To know the affordances of dating apps, scientists have contrasted dating apps with dating sites. Chan (2017) contends that five affordances differentiate dating apps from dating web sites: (a) flexibility, (b) proximity, (c) immediacy, (d) authenticity, and ( ag ag e) artistic dominance. First, dating apps afford mobility—they can be applied anywhere whenever you want, given that they run using portable products such as for example smart phones and pills. 2nd, while dating internet sites link people in broader regions, dating apps connect users who’re in each other’s instant proximity. Third, impromptu offline meeting, or immediacy, is more attainable on dating apps. 4th, on many dating apps, users’ reports could be associated with other social networking records ( e.g., Twitter and Instagram), supplying a particular degree of authenticity. Finally, because of the interface designs of dating apps, which highlight users’ profile pictures, dating apps are far more aesthetically dominated than dating websites. Lutz and Ranzini (2017) point away similar app that is dating, and additionally note the presence of links with other social media marketing accounts as further sourced elements of recognition.

These research reports have two limitations that are main. First, dating apps are just when compared with dating sites, to not ever other news platforms. In a environment of “polymedia” (Madianou, 2015) with abundant communicative possibilities made available from news technologies, individuals exploit the affordances of numerous various media platforms to control their relationships that are social. Scientists have actually noted that dating application users tend to continue their relationship on other news platforms such as for instance WhatsApp (MacKee, 2016; Ward, 2016). The way the variations in affordances donate to this platform needs that are switching be analyzed. In this research, we place dating apps in a bigger image of polymedia, where in fact the richness of news platforms allows platform switching in the course of relationship development. By continuing to keep an eye fixed on platform switching, we aim to know exactly what dating apps can and cannot afford for homosexual men’s relationship development.

2nd, this approach that is comparative affordances was mostly predicated on technical features and has now ignored the nuances in users’ subjective perceptions of technical energy. Since affordances are where those two aspects intersect, scientists must also probe users’ perceptions of what they’re able to perform with dating apps, along with the norms that are underlying values that arranged a selection of appropriate habits. These perceptions are inevitably connected to a negotiation of this relation between relationship development and casual intercourse. Into the section that is next we hence review appropriate studies to recapture the complexity in this settlement.