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From Love Letters to Facebook Messages: Has Technology Ruined Romance?

 

    Technology has transformed the way we function as a society. Tasks that would be time consuming are now made quicker to complete, creating convenience in our lives where there would otherwise be a series of steps to fulfill, all thanks to technology. From the way we travel, to the way we communicate, technology has impacted every aspect of human life. So when it comes to romantic relationships, it is interesting to see how the internet has impacted romance.  

    Kissing in the rain, grand gestures to apologize, delivering flowers to doorsteps--we are all familiar with the cliche scenarios that are trickled within classic love stories. Pursuing a love interest was a task that has traditionally been a challenge that entailed a series of grand gestures to profess your love. Instead of the premeditated strategies of declaring one’s emotions, with a click of a button, one can express interest. Has social media sites evolved the way we approach intimate relationships, or is the internet killing romance? From beginning of a relationship to the very end, I will be reviewing how romantic relationships have evolved over time.

The “Getting to Know You” Stage

    Without social media, initiating conversations with someone new typically required face to face communication in the past. Now with modern technology, you can get to know a person before actually meeting them. Personal information is now openly shared through social media sites such as Facebook, where you can display your birthday, age, gender, religion, and even your family members on your profile. Getting to know intimate details about another person was a form of information you received bit by bit as you progressed in the relationship.

    Social media has created a sense of instant gratification, where all types of information is accessible at any time of the day. Ever since digital technologies have become ubiquitous, a vision idealized by Mark Weiser (1988), communication has evolved as a whole. With smartphones and mobile apps for these social media sites, communicating with another person is simpler and faster. Where there used to be landline phones and voicemails, there is now facetime, snapchat, and direct messaging. So when it comes to the “getting to know you” stage, most of the traditional processes that occur in this moment are avoided entirely with the help of social media. This allows for you to be able to judge a person before actually speaking to them, or meeting them face to face. In an article “How is Technology Shaping Romance?”, Jill Suttie comments on the process of finding a partner:

“while many people enter the dating scene insecure about their attractiveness and fearful of making the first move, technology now allows them to test the waters a bit without jumping in—by Googling potential dates, checking out their Match.com profiles, or sending innocuous texts” (2015).

    Meeting new people online is a way to avoid face to face initiation entirely, and jump right into getting to know a complete stranger without the awkward first date. While online dating, there are some risks and dangers that can ensue. Without meeting someone face to face, it is easier to lie about your identity online, from your appearance to your background. This act of deceit is known as catfishing, or “where someone creates a false online persona to deceive another person” (Koford, 2015). From seeking love, friendship, or for entertainment, catfishing is a widespread trend that social media users have become wary of when seeking online relationships.

The “Making it Official Stage”

    To establish the terms of a relationship would once only require a serious conversation between the person’s involved. Nowadays, with social media, to define your relationship not only happens in person, but online as well. Social media behavior has become a critical component of romantic relationships and how others view these relationships. Whether a couple chooses to publicize their relationship on social media or not, the perception of their relationship is affected by their choice. A common, but not necessary, step that couples take is making their relationship “Facebook official,” or changing their relationship status on Facebook from “single” to “in a relationship.” Research performed by Brianna Lane shows evidence of romantic relationships being affected by the single notion of changing a relationship status on Facebook, as the study found that--

“going Facebook official seems to warrant one's relational characteristics, in that those who disclosed they were in a relationship online reported greater relational satisfaction, relational investment, and relational commitment offline” (2015).

    Relationship upkeep is also more demanding with today’s technology, as new modes of communication increases availability, giving couples the option to communicate at any given time of the day. This adds an extra tension to settle within the relationship, as it gives each couple a choice of when and how frequently they would communicate with one another. The easy access of communicating with your significant other could potentially eliminate alone time and privacy separate from the relationship, which is a freedom some individuals desire.

    In some ways, social media and mobile devices may aid in achieving privacy and secrecy effortlessly. Social media and mobile phones give the option to delete information such as call logs, text messages, or photos, and any information that a person receives can be deleted at any given moment. The option to meet new people online, and the convenience of contacting anyone you wish perpetuates and supports the idea of being involved in more than one relationship.

    Having access to a large sum of people in the palm of your hand is a notion in itself that creates suspicion and trust issues within a relationship. Being wary of deceit through technology and social media networks blur the boundaries and expectations of what should and should not be held private in a relationship. Dourish and Bell (2011) discuss the concept of privacy and the definition’s fragility, as privacy and what privacy means translates differently across different cultures and countries. Dourish and Bell describe the difference as

“it is not just that different people have different ideas about what things should be private but rather that around the world there are clearly different ways in which privacy is mobilized, made sense of, and managed” (2011).

    Acknowledging the different expectations and definitions of privacy, it should also be noted that technology is functioning as part of romantic relationships that can either sustain or be detrimental to the relationship itself.

The “Trouble in Paradise” Stage

   Sadly, all relationships are do not last forever. Where in the past, where one would break up face to face or through a sad love letter, we now see abrupt break up texts, public fights through social media, or phone calls that do not end well. Avoiding face to face communication and dealing with nervous situations through technology has been made simpler with social media. Just like internet users that are seeking loved ones through online strategies, internet users are also ending their relationships with these very same tactics.

    Facebook statuses are changed back to “single,” some couples even remove couple photographs that were once uploaded on their profiles, showcasing their relationship. This fast paced instant gratification that we receive from social media allows for us to move on from heartbreak in new and untraditional ways than ever before. Social media not only triggers jealousy, dissatisfaction, and mistrust within a relationship, but it also contributes to our constant shifting attention from one subject to the next best thing. Without a doubt, the simplicity of communicating through social media has turned dating into a game. Technology aids our FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” a term used by Seppala when discussing “anticipatory joy” (2016). Because the dating pool is much larger with the use of social networks, it is made possible to find another partner online in no time.

Is Technology Helping Us?

    One could argue that romance is being sustained through social media. In a CNN article “How Technology Has Changed Romance,” Breeanna Hare makes the argument that technology is simply reshaping how we view romance. Mentioning passionate interactions that people may have through technological devices, Hare makes the argument that “many of the messages saved in your phone are more intimate than your standard pillow talk” (2013). Within the same article, Philip Wang, creator of a video series entitled “Love Ruins Romance,” makes the statement that most complicated romantic scenarios could easily be solved with the use of a cellular device or messaging through social media apps like Facebook.

    Sure, internet interactions can come close to being the real thing, but what gets lost in translation from real world to the internet is physical human interaction. Social cues, facial expressions, actual touch, these are all communication signals that are just as important as words. These features of human interaction are difficult or even impossible to replicate over the internet. During an online exchange, it can easily be forgotten how our interactions are real and have real consequences. This can create a mindset of treating online communication as a game, with the other person being turned into a game piece.

    Social media sites, like Facebook or Instagram, have changed the way we seek a potential romantic partner. Instead of settling for someone we are interested in, we constantly try to find someone better, seeking perfection by analyzing a person’s social media page. This selective nature actually limits our dating pool, rather than giving us more options. A study performed by Chiou & Yang found that “ a large number of available options may induce more searches, and this may in turn lead to worse choices and poor selectivity” (2010).

    Social media also adds another societal pressure. Understanding that your social networking profiles are a reflection of yourself and affect others’ perception of you, there is a certain pressure to create and maintain an image of yourself. Being exposed to different profiles and popularized pages of celebrities and models, our self-image is altered, and our expectations of ourselves and others increase to high standards that are hard to meet. Imposing unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others are detrimental to building new and healthy relationships. In Instagram Unfiltered: Exploring Associations of Body Image Satisfaction, Instagram #Selfie Posting, and Negative Romantic Relationship Outcomes by Clayton and Ridgway, they have found that “body image satisfaction is sequentially associated with increased Instagram selfie posting and Instagram-related conflict, which is related to increased negative romantic relationship outcomes” (2016).

Conclusion

    Despite the obvious ways in which romance has evolved over time, it is also evident that the way we function as a society has evolved with the use of technological devices. With the negative ways that technology has impacted romance taken into consideration, it should also be noted that technology has provided effective ways in creating new and meaningful relationships. From my analysis, I leave with one observation: maybe romance has not been ruined, but redefined.

 

References

Chiou, W., & Yang, M. (2010). Looking online for the best romantic partner reduces decision

     quality: The moderating role of choice-making strategies. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking.

Clayton, R., & Ridgway, J. (2016). Instagram unfiltered: Exploring associations of body image

   satisfaction, Instagram #selfie posting, and negative romantic relationship outcomes. Cyberpsychology,           Behavior & Social Networking.

Dourish, P., & Bell, G. (2014). Rethinking privacy. Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous

     Computing. Boston: MIT Press.

Facebook. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/

Hare, B. (2013). How technology has changed romance. CNN.

Koford, J. (2015). BYU women victimized by ‘catfish’ relationship deception. The Daily

     Universe. Utah Press Association.

Lane, B. (2015). Making it Facebook official: The warranting value of online relationship status

     disclosures on relational characteristics. Computers in Human Behavior.

Seppala, E. (2016). Stop chasing the future. The Happiness Track. New York: Harper Collins.

Suttie, J. (2015). How is technology shaping romance? Greater Good Magazine. UC Berkeley:

     Greater Good Science Center.

Viacom. (2017). Catfish: The TV Show. Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/shows/catfish-the-tv-show

Weiser, M. (1991). The computer for the 21st century. Scientific American.

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