Seeking “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, the Netherlands. E-mail: email protected

  • Abstract
  • Complete Text
  • Recommendations
  • PDF


Cellphone dating applications perform a prominent part in Chinese homosexual men’s social everyday lives. Centered on in-depth interviews with 21 individuals, this study explores exactly exactly how metropolitan homosexual singles in Asia develop social relationships on dating apps. It reveals that relationship development can be driven by casual conversations, that aren’t inspired by clear pragmatic purposes. Casual conversations have a tendency to unfold around common hobbies or experiences, serving being a way to obtain sociability, or satisfaction in socializing it self. Contrary to casual conversations, two forms of conversations are considered very instrumental and undesirable: a person is the sex-oriented discussion targeted at instant intimate encounters; one other could be the interrogative discussion by which individuals ask personal concerns in a nonreciprocal and way that is rigid. Besides craving sociability, users “relationalize” casual intercourse by seeing it as a kind of social connection and endowing it utilizing the prospective to foster a relationship. This might be additionally mirrored in users preference that is sexual lovers with who they are able to hold a conversation. Users additionally exploit the affordances of various media 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 gather more identity cues from each other. Platform switching also signals willingness for relationship development and shared trust. Nonetheless, users continue back into 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 sex. Notwithstanding the different and often entangled motives users have actually (Timmermans & De Caluwe, 2017; Ward, 2017), dating apps are continuously named “hook-up apps” by scientists, particularly in gay 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) as opposed to “serious” relationships (Chan, 2018; Yeo & Fung, 2018). Provided the blended motivations reported by users, coupled with a propensity of researchers therefore the media to market a primarily casual intercourse script, dating app studies could take advantage of a wider viewpoint on what and exactly why people utilize dating apps. We repeat this by targeting social relationships, thought as “connections which exist between individuals who have recurring interactions being identified by the individuals to possess personal meaning” (August & Rook, 2013, p. 1838), and then we ask the next concern: just how do users start and develop social relationships on dating apps?

With this particular concern, we go through the Chinese context. Dating apps have actually gained an incredible number of Chinese homosexual users. Although China’s “Great Firewall” has limited the net link with dating that is foreign ( ag e.g., Tinder and Grindr), these apps continue to be quite popular among metropolitan users whom work with a digital personal system (VPN) to rise the firewall. Meanwhile, regional apps thrive within the safe haven protected by the “Great Firewall. ” Blued, as an example, has a lot more than 40 million registered users worldwide, around 70% of who 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 desire to know the way solitary metropolitan Chinese men that are gay social relationships on dating apps. We explore their usage patterns, their objectives of internet dating, and their understandings of casual intercourse, or sex beyond your stereotypical connection. We assess exactly how these factors intermesh using the technical affordances of dating apps. Before presenting our analysis, we first review the literature in the affordances of dating apps and homosexual users’ sexual methods.

Literature review

Affordances of dating apps

Affordances derive from the relationship between subjective perceptions of energy and objective qualities of items (Gibson, 1979). In news technology studies, the idea of affordances underlines the “mutuality of actor motives and technology abilities that provide the possibility for the particular action” (Majchrzak, Faraj, Kane, & Azad, 2013, p. 39). In connection with affordances of dating apps, their technological capabilities are manifest many prominently through their interfaces. Even though the browsing interfaces of dating apps are far more or less distinct from one another, they may be able effortlessly be classified into 2 types (see Figure 1 ). One kind has a list view, presenting a variety of nearby users’ profiles in descending purchase of geographical proximity. This sort includes widely known apps that are gay-specific such as for example Grindr and Blued. You can begin a discussion with any individual presented from the display screen. One other kind presents one single profile at a time. Users have to swipe kept or directly on the profile to signal their dis/interest in developing an association. Personal texting is achievable only if both users signal their interest. Representatives with this kind are Tinder plus the Chinese homosexual application Aloha.

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

Inspite of the differences between these kind of apps, their provided affordances are instead salient whenever dating apps as an entire are in comparison to other news platforms. Comparison is achievable within the feeling that various things permit certain affordances to degrees that are differentTreem & Leonardi, 2013). As an example, a cell phone has a greater amount of portability than the usual laptop (Schrock, 2015). To comprehend the affordances of dating apps, scientists have actually contrasted dating apps with dating web sites. Chan (2017) argues that five affordances differentiate dating apps from dating sites: (a) flexibility, (b) proximity, (c) immediacy, (d) authenticity, and ( ag e) visual dominance. First, dating apps afford mobility—they can be properly used anywhere whenever you want, simply because they operate on portable products such as for instance smartphones and pills. 2nd, while dating internet sites connect people in broader areas, dating apps connect users that are in each other’s instant proximity. 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 media marketing reports ( e.g., Twitter and Instagram), supplying a particular degree of authenticity. Finally, as a result of screen designs of dating apps, which highlight users’ profile images, dating apps tend to be more visually dominated than dating web sites. Lutz and Ranzini (2017) point away similar app that is dating, and additionally note the presence of links with other social media marketing reports as further types of identification.

These research reports have two main restrictions. First, dating apps are merely in comparison to dating sites, not to ever other media platforms. In 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 actually noted that dating application users have a tendency to continue their relationship on other media 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 examined. In this extensive research, we place dating apps in a more substantial image of polymedia, where in actuality the richness of media platforms allows platform switching for the duration of relationship development. By keeping a watch on platform switching, we aim to know just what dating apps can and cannot manage for gay men’s relationship development.

2nd, this approach that is comparative affordances happens to be largely predicated on technical features and it has ignored the nuances in users’ subjective perceptions of technical utility. Since affordances are where both of these aspects intersect, scientists must 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 regarding the connection between relationship development and casual sex. Into the next part, we hence review appropriate studies to recapture the complexity in this settlement.