Love, Sex, and Social Networks: How Technology is Affecting our Relationships

by | Feb 15, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Back in what the newest generations might jokingly call “the dark ages,” before internet was available in the majority of homes, you could access free wi-fi at McDonald’s, and everyone was tweeting about the latest advances in smart phone technology, our behavior was different. Relationships formed differently. It took longer to get to know someone. There was more time spent together before we were close friends, or dating. We actually had to ask how someone was doing, and what their plans were for the day.

There has been a definite shift in the way we deal with people. Now is the time of Facebook and Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, any number of personal blogs where everyone can blast their thoughts and feelings for the world to see. Now is the reign of the text message and the smart phone; video chat and instant email replies. Today, we are so heavily connected with everyone around us; we know everything from the latest sale at the mall to the grade on our best friend’s niece’s algebra test just from sitting at our computers.

And with all of these changes also came the latest evolution of the dating scene. Technology impacts our relationships today in ways that many of us wouldn’t notice. Here are just a few changes in our romantic lives thanks to technology:

  • We get to know our new romantic partners faster The wonderful thing about the internet is that we are always connected. In fact, we’re so connected that we feel almost compelled to update Facebook and Twitter with all of the tiniest bits of information, upload all of our favorite headshots for profile pictures, create albums for our vacations and last year’s birthday bash, and even share current events via mobile uploads. We let our friends and followers know almost everything about ourselves! All of this information sharing contributes to the rate at which we get to know our romantic partners. We have easy access to a large part of our internet friends’ lives. Through just a tiny bit of cyber-stalking, we have more details that most people could learn on a first date. The massive amount of knowledge helps us feel like we’ve known our partner for years, even if it has been only a few weeks or months. This helps us bond with our partners faster, and can lead to the existence of heavy emotional attachments after only short periods of dating.
  • We can be constantly connected to our romantic partners, with minimal effort. It really used to be harder to stay in touch with people. At one point, long distance relationships had to write letters. Then, we had to be home to make phone calls—or answer them! Now, most of us don’t even opt for phone calls as a means of communication. When we’re out with friends or even at work—we can text with our phones, use g-chat on our smart phones and mobile devices, and even keep up with Facebook chat and messages! The options for communication are expansive, and we love taking advantage of them. This also helps us feel more connected and attached to our partners, but our constant communication can have negative effects. For some people it is possible to know too much. We lose a lot of the mystery by talking to our partners so much in the early stages of a relationship; it can even make some people feel like they are being constantly monitored, and lead to feelings of resentment. However, a lot of people just feel a little bored with the fact that you let them know about that PB&J you just ate at your desk.
  • We progress they physical aspects of our relationships faster. With every other aspect of the relationship moving so much faster, it’s not surprising that we’re generally taking our relationships to the bedroom sooner. In some surveys, women respond that they like to wait a few months before they progress into more physical relationship; however, recent studies indicate that women who stay in heavy contact with their partners via social networks might choose to engage in sexual intimacy after only a few dates. This is likely a result of the information we have access to. If many people feel like they have truly gotten to know their partner by shifting through their Facebook pictures and comparing mutual friends, it only makes sense that we behave as though we know them better.
  • We have a more difficult time dealing with break-ups. As if break-ups weren’t hard enough before we became so techno-centric, Facebook and Twitter have made matters worse for many individuals. During a relationship, many people choose to heavily engrain their partners in their social networks. They’re on your friends list on Facebook, a follower on Twitter, and might even be a connection on LinkedIn or a member of your Guild in World of Warcraft. This also holds true for many of their friends that you have gotten to know throughout the course of your relationship. As a result, it can be hard to maintain distance after a breakup. It doesn’t help you come to terms with your emotional attachment if you see your ex’s new profile image, or the pictures from their latest vacation; you certainly don’t want an instant update that they are claiming a new relationship status online either! Even if you’ve removed them from your own friend list, you might still stumble upon their comments on your friends’ statuses.


So are these good impacts on our relationships? Maybe. These results may give you cause to rethink your online behavior. Maintaining techno-distance from your new romantic partners can actually help you during the course of your relationship. By waiting to get to know your new partner the “old fashioned way,” you might discover some great details that aren’t listed on their Facebook page. Waiting to find out all of the details, and savoring the communications that you share can even help you form a stronger bond and stay together longer.


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