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Swipe right? Tinder, commitment and the commercialization of intimate life

van Hooff, Jenny (2019) Swipe right? Tinder, commitment and the commercialization of intimate life. In: Romantic Relationships in a Time of Cold Intimacies. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life . Palgrave. ISBN 978-3-030-29256-0

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Abstract

This chapter explores the posited commercialization of intimate relationships, and the threat that this is perceived to pose to traditional forms of commitment (Illouz, 2007, 2012). Findings are drawn from a qualitative study of heterosexual male Tinder users, which focused in particular on participants’ online representation of self, their motivations for using the app, and their accounts of encounters and relationships mediated in this way. Analysis suggests the majority of participants were seeking both long-term relationships and casual sex, frequently moving between the two. Therefore the distinction between ‘hook-ups’ and long-term commitment did not reflect the lived experience of the men interviewed, who had not rejected committed relationships, but began all encounters casually before these potentially developed further. Commodification and rationalisation was demonstrated in terms of the presentation of self (Goffman, 1957), as participants sought to compete on the dating app market via highly edited profiles, and evaluated potential matches through a similarly strict criteria. Heteronormative scripts dominated participants’ encounters, which continued to operate within the context of wider structural gender inequalities rather than fundamentally challenging them. On the basis of these findings there is limited evidence to support arguments that the use of dating apps such as Tinder reflects either the emancipatory potential of the Internet, or the commercialization of intimate life.

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