Dating in the Digital World
// Posted by Mia on 03/02/2014 (11:45 PM)
By: Caroline Andryc, Eliza Breed, Piper Brighton, Allie Deering and Mia Webber
For our group project, we decided to focus on the impact of digital culture on romantic relationships. As seen in the video, social media and technology are very present forces in our society and seemingly necessary for a relationship to function. In order to explore this complex topic, we looked into the ways in which social media and technology both negatively and positively affect relationships. Advances in technology have allowed people to connect and communicate in new and incredible ways. Applications such as Facetime, Skype, Twitter, and Instagram provide people with the opportunity to communicate 24/7, regardless each individual’s environment. According to Pew Research Center’s article Couples, the Internet, and Social Media, young adults are more likely to report feeling closer to their spouse or partner thanks to technology. According to their survey, 41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner due to online or text message conversations and 23% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships report resolving an argument using technology that they were having trouble resolving in person. At the same time, young adults are more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use, as 42% of cell phone-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together. It is evident that digital culture can affect romantic relationships in multiple ways. The aim of our project is to investigate its various influences while taking into account the recent Pew survey on how American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics, and emotional intimacy within their relationships (Pew).
The following skit illustrates the positive impact of technology on relationships. The beneficial effects of digital communication are particularly apparent in long-distance relationships, as it allows the couple to connect regardless of their individual environment. Through the mainstream digital networks such as: Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, couples are able to maintain a constant connection. These technologies have allowed couples to breakaway from the impersonal and monotonous phone calls to the face-to-face emotional video conferencing calls. Especially present in long-distance relationships, couples now have the ability to electronically see each other everyday, which can contribute to a stronger relationship. Technology only continues to grow exponentially, as subscribers to the new iPhone 5 have witnessed, people can now use Facetime without WiFi, a feature that was only recently released. This has allowed couples to communicate via video conferencing even more and be a part of each others lives no matter where they may be. Current technology helps with the logistics and communication of a relationship, making it easier to strengthen the bond between two people.
As the Huffington Post declared in the article, “Long Distance Relationships May Benefit From ‘Hug Shirts,’ Other Technologies,” romantic relationships are now not as challenging as they used to be due to the abilities of mainstream social media: “As communication technology has improved over time, it’s helped long-distance couples stay in real-time contact and enjoy conversations almost as if they were sitting face to face.” With applications like, FaceTime and Skype which now have the capacity to work wherever the individual may be, relationships no matter the distance have the opportunity to evolve and become even more closely-knit. Without the assistance of video technology, couples would not be as eager and enthusiastic about long-distance relationships. USA Today’s article “More young couples try long-distance relationships,” supports this statement, as Sharon Jayson discusses how common and popular long-distance relationships are becoming. She interviews a couple, Rachel Goldstein and Ben Kuryk who met in college and have now decided to continue their relationship no matter the distance between their new post-graduate jobs. The 1,055 miles between Goldstein and Kuryk does not seem so far while they’re communicating via FaceTime and Skype three to four times a day. As Goldstein declares, “”We’re professionals at this.”” A recent study in the journal Communication Research discovered that “as many as half of college students are in long-distance relationships, and up to 75% will be at some point.” Due to the vast capabilities of technology, couples no longer have to put their relationships on pause. Goldstein and Kuryk have been together for six and half years and in more than four different cities. Their relationship has lasted and ceased to perish solely because of the innovation of technology and the vast opportunities presented within social media. As seen in the USA Today article, it has proven that couples can withhold the long and grueling weeks and months of being apart, because of technology. Without the remarkable aptitude of technology, couples like Goldstein and Kuryk would not have the ability to maintain their relationship and ultimately see what direction it takes in the future.
It is obvious that without technology many relationships, long distance or not, would not last as long as they do today. Social media and technology places that connection with one’s significant other in the palm of their hand, literally. In our current society, it is beyond just phone calls. The visual elements that modern technology incorporates, such as facetime and skype, allow couples to communicate face-to-face, which arguably fosters a deeper connection. Conceivably, one could be in a long-distance relationship in which they are always “with” their partner. I say “with” in quotations because although facetime offers far more connectivity than a mere phone call, the relationship without physical contact is limited. Still, with apps like Facetime you could technically sleep, eat, dance, watch tv, and engage in sexual foreplay. This type of relationship is not for everyone, but for those that adhere to the cultural norms of the use of technology in relationships, a long-distance relationship would be much easier to maintain. It is not surprising that long distance relationships are on the rise, our generation is accustomed to being able to communicate with their significant other whenever, wherever.
In this scenario, the two girls are demonstrating the anxiety that technology can create in a relationship. Texting enables fast and instant connections between people, therefore, we expect quick responses: “As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers” (Turkle, Flight From Conversation). Our lack of patience in this matter can cause issues, as anxieties can amount if one sees that the message has been read, but a response has not followed fast enough. Additionally, texting allows us to “edit” what we want to say and consequently hide our feelings and true expressions to “present the self we want to be.” (Turkle). Social Media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have enabled people to “connect” with others indirectly; to gather “sips” of information about others that might not tell the whole story.
Zuckerberg claims Facebook was built to “accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” however, “connection” should not replace conversation (Techcrunch; Turkle). With Facebook’s mission in mind, we take what we see on social media to be the true representation of peoples’ lives. In this scenario, access to Peter’s Facebook allowed the girls to make judgements and perceptions about his life and relationships, that might or might not have been accurate, which can lead to unnecessary anxieties as trust can become questioned.
Trusting social media as the primary source of information can become dangerous, as catfishing has become more prevalent. A catfish is someone who creates a false online identity, usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you or to scam people into giving you money, credit, or other gains. Just recently, Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o claims he was a victim of a catfishing scam. Even more terrifying is the idea that catfishing is not exactly against the law. While some states can criminalize those that impersonate an actual person, there are currently no laws that punish those that create a fictitious person (Merritt Web). The ability of social media to enhance relationships is evident, as we discussed earlier, which makes it much more emotionally difficult for one to realize that they’ve been duped by a catfish considering the amount of time and effort that was probably invested into the online relationship.
The videos that we created showed people using social media to connect with others, either to enhance a long-distance relationship or to decode someone’s actions. But, because we rely on social media to connect with others, we can choose who we connect with. For example, if a relationship ends between two people, one can “digitally delete” that other person from their lives by de-friending them on Facebook, unfollowing them on Twitter and Instagram, and deleting them off your Snapchat friend list. Additionally, the act of breaking up with someone or ending a friendship can be made easier by texting and messaging that person instead of dealing with messy, emotional, face-to-face conversations; Turkle argues this point as well: “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology.”
It is virtually impossible in this day and age to find an example of a relationship exempt from the influence of digital culture. Because it has become such a widespread and mainstream mode of communication, it can be implied that the use of technology is inherently good, otherwise it would not be in constant use. Couples can use technology to keep in contact on a fast and consistent basis, which can lead to a deeper emotional connection. Technology gives couples in long distance relationships the opportunity and the choice to maintain the relationship they are in, and continue to see how it goes in the future. Yet the huge influence of digital culture on romantic relationships does not come without its downfalls. While technology can be a huge help in the search for a relationship and the maintenance of a relationship, it is not the sole factor that makes a relationship work. Websites such as Match.com and OKcupid may facilitate the search, but it still takes human initiative and eventual personal contact for a relationship to develop. And while constant communication may aid in maintaining a relationship, it can also set individuals up for unrealistic expectations on response times or the openness of their partner. Social media adds another layer of sharing to a relationship that can either facilitate the relationship or cause anxiety or a feeling of exclusion for one’s significant other based on what one shares with one’s friends on social media. While technology is a huge factor in modern relationships, its use and outcome is still greatly rooted in how an individual uses it. Technology may help with the nuts and bolts of a relationship, but it cannot create in-person chemistry and it cannot act as a substitute for emotional love.
1. Dodson, Lauren, “Catfish and the Law.”
2. Turkle, Sherry, “Flight from Conversation.”
3. Shaw, Lisa. “What is Catfishing and Why You Should Care.”
4. Constine, Josh, “Facebook’s S-1 Letter From Zuckerberg Urges Understanding Before Investment.”
5. Couples, the Internet, and Social Media
6. Huffington Post:
7. USA Today: