New research on ‘rituals of transition’ among dating app users

Dating app users participate in ‘rituals of transition’ as they signal mutual interest and heightened intimacy by moving conversations from dating apps to social media messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. These rituals of transition occur primarily prior to, but also occasionally during, or immediately after, a date. 

Fabian Broeker, CMCI PhD candidate, examines this behaviour among dating app users in a recently published paper in New Media and Society. Based on 13 months of ethnographic research in Berlin, the study argues that users code the apps installed on their smartphones as hosting spheres of varying intimacy, with a hierarchy incorporating dating apps and other social media such as WhatsApp, Signal, Instagram, and Snapchat. These spheres are substantiated through the infrastructure of notifications on users’ devices, where gaining access to a potential partner’s WhatsApp allows greater access and brings users into a communication sphere shared with family and friends outside of the dating app. The paper argues that rather than drastically altering how users communicate across different apps, rituals of transition are a key moment of communication in themselves.

The full article titled ‘We went from the anonymity of the internet into my private WhatsApp’: Rituals of transition among dating app users in Berlin is available here.