On or Off? The Influence of Motivations and Risks in Meeting Offline or Staying Online in Mobile Dating Apps Use


In China, heterosexuals use mobile dating applications (MDA) like Momo as “a magical tool to get laid” (Nelson, 2013) or a “one-night stand mystical device” (De Seta & Zhang, 2015). In an earlier study investigating the motivations and risks involved in the use of MDAs and meeting strangers for dates or sexual encounters, Authors (2019) found that the motivation for sexuality predicts MDA use to meet people offline for both dates and casual sex, while the perceived risk of self-exposure to friends, professional networks, and the community is seen to be a reason why MDA use would not result to users meeting people offline for casual sex. While MDA users use the app largely as a tool to seek matches online and then to meet up in person for dates and sex, some users choose to stay online. As an extension to their earlier study, the authors now aim to determine the motivations and perceived risks that influence MDA users to stay purely online. Thus, this study would like to explore the question: How do demographic characteristics, motivations, and perceived risks predict whether a MDA user stays online or meets online matches offline? After logistic regression analysis of survey data from 433 respondents, the results of the study show that the more frequent the MDA use is, and the more motivated a user is for fun and connectivity, and sexuality, the more likely for this MDA user to go meet a match offline. Implications are discussed in the context of the emergence of the Chinese sexual revolution in the past three decades, with the increasingly mediatized spaces for love and sexuality in China (Zhang, 2011; Xiao, Mehrotra, & Zimmerman, 2011) vis-à-vis the government’s “sanitizing and desexualization” projects of apps like Momo to appease public concerns of its “sexual nature” (Liu, 2016).

This research contributes to the growing body of studies on mobile dating applications. While there are already abounding studies about specific apps like Tinder and Grindr, most of these are from the western regions. Only a few are about MDA use in China and, of the available ones, most of these are specific studies on Momo (Chan, 2019; Liu, 2016; De Seta & Zhang, 2015). It also aims to contribute to Uses and Gratifications (U&G) studies by developing the concept of risk and how it complements or complicates the motivations behind MDA use. On a practical level, this study wishes to add to knowledge about how to manage, rather than eliminate, risks in a highly mediatized society, especially as children, in this study as young as 11 years old, are increasingly gaining access to mobile phones and apps.