Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communications Media

First Advisor

Anna V. Ortiz Juarez-Paz

Second Advisor

Steven Kleinman

Third Advisor

Zachary Stiegler

Abstract

Research on relationship escalation, maintenance, and de-escalation has yielded important information on how relationships form successfully, the challenges of maintaining them, and the emotional impact the process can have for the parties involved. Technology has arguably altered the way in which individuals experiences the stages of a relationship but few studies have examined this area of communication. This dissertation explored the life cycle of relationships on Tinder. Three main themes emerged from interviewing 31 participants: the Functions of Tinder, Life of Connections, and Impact on Ego. While participants said Tinder functioned as an app used for entertainment and fostering a variety of relationships, Tinder users, especially males, also experienced a decrease in self-esteem from using the app. Furthermore, the data suggests Knapp’s (1978) classic relational stage model does not account for the steps that are unique to connecting via location-based dating apps. Pre-communication stages where Tinder users engage in encoding a written and visual profile and decoding others’ profiles via swiping are important to add to the model, as these steps must be successfully completed before communication can occur. Participants experienced the first two steps of escalation slowly because they were skeptical of other Tinder users, but once they met in person, the relationship progressed at a “normal” rate. Tinder users did not experience five steps of de-escalation, but instead a sharp decline in communication to terminate the relationship or ghosting, where one individual abruptly discontinued communication. The researcher proposed a model of the stages of relationships on Tinder to account for these changes to the traditional model. Future research should explore if the proposed model is applicable to other dating apps as well as continue to understand the challenges dating in the digital age has for its users.

Included in

Communication Commons

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