Peer-to-Peer Networking and Applications

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 357–367 | Cite as

Characterizing user behaviors in location-based find-and-flirt services: Anonymity and demographics

A WeChat Case Study


WeChat, both a location-based social network (LBSN) and an online social network (OSN), is an immensely popular application in China. In this paper we specifically focus on a popular WeChat sub-service, namely, the People Nearby service, which is exemplary of a find-and-flirt service, similar to those on Momo and Tinder. Specifically, the People Nearby service reads in the current geographic location of the device to locate a list of other people using WeChat who are in the same vicinity. The user can then request to establish a WeChat friendship relation with any of the users on the list. In this paper, we explore: (i) if one gender tends to use the People Nearby service more than another; (ii) if users of People Nearby are more anonymous than ordinary WeChat users; (iii) if ordinary WeChat users are more anonymous than Twitter users. We also take an in-depth examination of the user anonymity and demographics in a combined fashion and examine: (iv) if ordinary WeChat females are more anonymous than ordinary males; (v) if People Nearby females are more anonymous than People Nearby males. By answering these questions, we will gain significant insights into modern online dating and friendship creation, insights that should be able to inform sociologists as well as designers of future find-and-flirt services.


Location-based social networks Anonymity Demographics Find-and-flirt services 



This paper is an extended version of [22]. We would like to thank our 5 labmates for helping classify numerous accounts. This work was supported in part by the NSF under Grant CNS-1318659. This work was also supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, under Grant 61571191, in part by the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality under Grant 13JC1403502.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.East China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.NYU ShanghaiShanghaiChina
  3. 3.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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