2. RISK IN MOBILE DATING: A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE
CONCLUSION New research into mobile dating needs to be responsive to the sociomaterial conditions of people’s lives, as this pandemic continues to rapidly and differentially evolve across the globe
Taking a lens that examines risk and emotion in concert (Lupton, 2013) would additionally be valuable in conducting an inquiry into how intimacy is formed and experienced through current threats of infection and conditions of uncertainty. For instance, what is people’s imagined sense of how they can feel, respond and act in relation to other human and non?human actors (i.e., in relation to others, in the context of a pandemic, and through mobile dating technologies)? To answer this question, we need to understand the variety of ‘affective practices’ that are at play (Lupton, 2013; Wetherell, 2012)-how emotion and intimacy can be created, understood and enacted within material and discursive contexts of risk. Methodologically, we need to examine ‘the active work of meaning making [through emotion and discourse] in situ and its practical organisation’ (Wetherell et al., 2015, p. 57), in this case, between people, through dating apps, and in the context of the pandemic with prevailing discourses and practices of risk, threat and uncertainty.
I would like to thank Antonia Lyons, Deborah Lupton and Clive Aspin for their generous input into earlier versions of this commentary.
Mobile dating platforms were seemingly able to leverage the pandemic as an opportunity to experiment with new video technology and features, advising users on how to ‘date from home’ successfully, thereby promoting virtual dates to users who might otherwise have questioned the purpose of dating apps (Coombe et al., 2020; Myles et al., 2021). In doing so, companies such as Tinder, Grindr and Bumble all contributed to re?constructing virtual dating as more ‘socially meaningful’ and, ultimately, re?establish their relevance in a time when in?person dates could be deemed problematic (Myles et al., 2021, p. 83). , 2020).
Through such technological and interactional entanglements, mobile dating has also contributed to a phenomenon of ‘liquid love’ (Bauman, 2003), where intimacy is constructed and understood differently compared to more ‘traditional’ forms of meeting and communicating with people. Intimacy today can be multiple and fleeting, and often swiftly initiated between ‘virtual’ strangers (Jiang et al., 2011; Liu, 2016; Lomanowska & Guitton, 2016; Witt, 2016). Mobile dating has thus come to represent a world where new forms of intimacy and affective connection can be imagined, and where geographical and social barriers can be challenged and even overcome as people search for love, sex, romance or other forms of connection. This notably offers hopeful possibilities for the current context of the pandemic, and is demonstrated in people’s continued (and increased) use of mobile dating since 2020 (see e.g., Coombe et al., 2020).
The success of this is evident in user statistics, with Tinder recording its highest number of user swipes on one day in ) and people reporting an increased use of dating apps for organising virtual dates (Coombe et al
Considering how this occurs must be further located within the surrounding sociomaterial conditions of different lives, in diverse locations. Take the case of Aotearoa New Zealand; whilst we have benefited from a successful and strong public health response to COVID?19, this ‘success’ will always be contingent on how the pandemic continues to unfold and what strategies are taken to contain it (Binny et al., 2021). Moreover, like other infectious dating services International diseases, COVID?19 has affected communities differently across Aotearoa, along existing lines of ethnic and socio?economic inequity (McLeod et al., 2020). But, overall, experiences of the pandemic could differ vastly between Aotearoa and other countries, given how the pandemic has developed to date. Taking a critical lens in health psychology offers one useful way in which to consider people’s experiences in terms of how they are shaped by broader issues of equity, justice and sociocultural context (Chamberlain et al., 2018; Lyons & Chamberlain, 2006). This would involve examining people’s diverse socio?economic locations, their cultural values and practices, and the evolving context of the pandemic-namely, the varied conditions in which people discursively make sense of and act on their need for intimacy.