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Accepted Paper:

Hierarchies of intimacy in everyday life: dating apps, notifications, and rituals of transition  
Fabian Broeker (LSE)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork with dating app users in Berlin, this paper argues that courtship rituals and practices of intimacy among dating app users gravitate around transitioning away from a dating app to messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp - platforms which feel more intimate.

Paper long abstract:

Dating apps, as socialised technologies, are deeply embedded into the everyday lives of their users. Questions of identity and selfhood play out across dating apps and the broader dating culture they are embedded within. This paper argues that dating app users operate within an environment of affordances that includes various social media and communication platforms, which permeate users' everyday lived experiences. Drawing on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork with dating app users in Berlin, in this paper I argue that courtship rituals and practices of intimacy among dating app users gravitate around transitioning away from a dating app to messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp. These rituals are utilised by users to distance their intimate lives from the matchmaking algorithm at the core of dating apps, supplanting the “swipe” as a signal of mutual interest with their own courtship practices, functioning outside of the intended use of the apps.

Drawing on ethnographic data incorporating 36 semi-structured interviews and 45 chat interviews across three popular dating apps, Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid, the paper finds that users code the apps installed on their smartphones as bounded spheres of differentiating intimacy. Furthermore, a hierarchy of intimacy exists around the notification settings users implement across their device, with most choosing not to receive notifications from their installed dating apps. As such, moving to an app such as WhatsApp, where users have notifications enabled, grants potential partners greater access to one another, and creates the feeling of being further interwoven into a partner’s everyday intimate life.

Panel P104
Sensory media anthropology, an introduction
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -