Ladies First: The Influence of Mobile Dating Applications on the Psychological Empowerment of Female Users
This study was undertaken to shed light on how the use of a heteronormative mobile dating application creates an environment to promote psychological empowerment among female users within the online dating scene. The study focused on a mobile dating application which specifically challenges traditional gender roles, namely Bumble.
Mobile dating applications have become an increasingly popular medium for people to meet potential partners. However, users’ pre-existing social norms and biases inform how they communicate on these platforms, and stereotyped judgment about women perpetuates ideologies which continue to oppress them within the cyber world. Despite this, very little research has investigated the experiences of female users of mobile dating applications.
The study was qualitative in nature, and 10 semi-structured interviews of female Bumble users were conducted. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis.
The study contributes to knowledge by highlighting how key features of mobile dating applications influence various aspects of psychological empowerment as articulated in the findings.
The findings show that the Bumble application supports Intrapersonal variables of Psychological Empowerment of female users relative to Domain Specific Perceived Control and Self-Efficacy, Motivation to Control and Perceived Competence. However, Domain Specific Perceived Control can also be negatively impacted due to self-doubt when female users receive little to no matches. Interactional variables of psychological empowerment are also supported, as Bumble allows female users to be critically aware of the need to screen potential partners, understand relevant causal agents, develop skills relative to initiating conversations and mobilize resources. However, Bumble is not effective in supporting behavioral variables of psychological empowerment because of limitations in the tool’s functionality and the behavior of the people interacting on the platform.
The findings are important as they suggest the need to enhance the features available to female users in order to better suit their needs and desire to take control of their lives in the context of dating and/or friendship.
The findings reveal the need for a change of perceptions and attitudes on the part of some users to create a safer and more considerate virtual dating space, to truly achieve psychological empowerment.
More research is required on how male and female users domesticate mobile dating applications and how the use of these applications influence their daily lives from a socio-cultural point of view.