Chinese Culture, Contemporary Dating and Tantan: Exploring self-presentation in the Age of Mobile Dating Apps
Yap, Khai Shin
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The rise of mobile dating applications has changed the nature of relationships, dating, and marriage. Although previous research has contributed to the understanding of Western online dating applications such as Tinder, which has transformed the dating market for young people in the West, it is interesting to explore the different usage of online dating applications by users from a traditionally different cultural context. Therefore, this study examines the motivations, expectations, and experiences of young Malaysian Chinese as they use Tantan – a mobile dating application originating from China. Furthermore, this study explores the way that gender is performed on this mobile dating application and considers the contextual effect it has on the users’ understanding of their identity online. To meet these research objectives, a qualitative methodology that utilised semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with ten Malaysian Chinese participants from New Zealand and Malaysia was employed; two of the participants were from the LGBTQ community. This thesis contends that despite the modernisation of Malaysian Chinese families over several generations, a Chinese cultural upbringing and extensive tradition still plays a significant role in how young Malaysian Chinese navigate contemporary, mediatised spaces such as Tantan. Moreover, by drawing from key scholarship such as Goffman’s theory of self-presentation and Butler’s critique of hegemonic gender representation, the findings of this study demonstrate some of the ways that gender performance is constructed and received online, as well as the role these concerns play in the facilitation of personal and intimate relationships of young Malaysian Chinese.