“Congratulations! You just won the title for ‘worse Tinder opening line’”
Inappropriate behaviour and impoliteness in online dating
Often preferred to its face-to-face counterpart, online dating has transformed the way we perceive practices relevant to meeting people, mostly because it offers “a wider pool of potential partners” (Heino, Ellison, and Gibbs 2010, 428). Despite its popularity, however, online dating is an under-researched area in general, crucially in linguistics. Looking at (mostly unsuccessful) naturally occurring initial interactions that have taken place on the popular Tinder application, the aim of this study is to gain some insights into the relationship among language aggression, impoliteness and communication failure in the context of flirting on Tinder. Results show that the most common way that users initiate interaction in this dataset is through sexually loaded language, which seems to be understood as a breach of the norms of appropriateness for first-time contact. Although Tinder has no manual to prescribe what should or should not be said in interaction, it transpires from the data that avoiding overstepping in terms of sexual matters (i.e. refraining from using sexually loaded language and/or innuendos) functions as an unwritten law which sparks impoliteness when not followed. Resulting impoliteness manifests itself mostly through the strategies of sarcasm and ignoring/snubbing the other, used to counteract (perceived) inappropriateness. Tracing this escalation of non-cooperative practices, from inappropriateness to impoliteness, also provides the opportunity to examine the emergence of playfulness and creativity as language behaviours interwoven with aggression. Therefore, online dating seems to lend itself well to the study of impoliteness and violation of norms of appropriate behaviour, providing opportunities for an expansion of contexts for linguistic analysis.
Keywords: online dating, Tinder, norms, impoliteness, aggression, playfulness
Published online: 25 May 2021
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