Swipe right? Geo-social networking applications, gender, and sexual identities, and social-sexual practices
Research funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Principle Investigators: Corey W. Johnson and Diana C. Parry, University of Waterloo
Recently, a controversial article in Vanity Fair highlighted the critical and time-sensitive need for cultural research on geo-social networking applications (GSNAs). GSNAs use cell phones and satellites to create computer-mediated communication whereby users exchange a series of electronic messages and participate in different relational activities via cyberspace, often leading to in-person meet-ups for dates, sexual hookups, etc. GSNAs are radically and rapidly changing the nature of our cultural landscape, including gender identities, sexual practices, use of public space, commerce, and quality of life.
Four objectives framed this research: 1) Generate qualitative interview data that address the impacts of GSNAs on gender and sexual identities, relationships and quality of life within straight, bisexual, lesbian and gay communities, and across diverse gender identities; 2) Conduct focus groups to generate data on how the use of GSNAs in public spaces affects the shape and configuration of those spaces; and 3) Promote a new methodology for the study of GSNAs to equip and encourage qualitative inquiry on the intersection of digitality and social, cultural and sexual practices.
Geo-social networking applications and the Collaboratory on Digital Equity Research: an overview
Dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are transforming the ways in which we connect with one another. But how? In this first video of our series, we acquaint viewers with the concept of geo-social networking applications, or GSNAs, and describe what sets them apart from other communication technologies
Authenticity versus desirability: Gay and bisexual men’s self-presentation on dating apps
Geo-social networking applications, or GSNAs, have changed the dating game dramatically for everybody. But for sexual minorities like gay men, these apps are the most frequently used method of meeting partners. The way that these apps are designed have users constantly competing for attention against a grid of other users, so effective presentation of the self is crucial to making connections. In this second video of our series, we explain what self-presentation is, how the digital environment changes the ways in which we go about it, and what different self-presentation strategies indicate about users’ relational motivations. We also describe how users balance tensions between representing themselves authentically and making themselves appear desirable.
Dehumanization on dating apps: digital infrastructures and social contexts
Increasingly, geo-social networking applications are being used not just for seeking out sexual and romantic partners, but as a leisure activity – a game to play. Tinder’s signature swiping function is an example of how apps are gamifying the act of meeting people. While this gamification is great for user engagement and company profits, it introduces a layer of dehumanization to each of the interactions happening in the app. As we explain in this third video in our series, dating apps are rife with discriminatory and uncivil behaviour, much of which is enabled by the structure of the app interface itself, but also reflects the problematic sexual and gender norms that form the context in which dating apps are developed and used.
Women’s many uses of dating apps
Despite the harassment, sexism, and misogyny to which they are regularly subjected online, women of all stripes are active users of networking technologies, including geo-social networking apps. In this final video of our series, we explore some of the many reasons women use dating apps. Primarily, dating apps serve two basic needs: having fun and connecting with others. Ultimately, though, dating apps are not just places to meet new people online. They are conversation starters, games friends can play together, and sites where one can imagine themselves as part of a community.