Before social media, dating was simple. A person built up enough courage to ask someone on a date. Now, people allow technology to do all of the work for them.
Usually, when a person goes out on a date, their main concern is to collect data to see whether or not the person is the right match.
Samantha Royka, a mass communication major, thinks technology helps people embark on a new forum.
“Social media can make connecting with potential dates easier and provide a built-in messaging system for easy communication,” Royka said. “It's much easier to ask for someone's Twitter or Snapchat than their phone number.”
Because of social media, people rely on technology to play matchmaker. So, has technology made dating a thing in the past? To answer that question we must identify how technology can affect relationships.
According to Social Sciences Professor Elizabeth Boger, social media has the potential to improve relationships or harm them.
“Social media may negatively influence relationships simply by being present—literally,” Boger said. “It’s easy to find people who will complain about being in a social situation with one or more people who spend most of their time on their phone.”
Boger explained that being preoccupied with social media while on a date gives the appearance that a person isn’t very interested or engaged. She then added that social media provides people with additional outlets for social comparison.
“We can compare our dating life to someone else’s and sometimes we end up feeling good about ours—but images on social media are often planned out and present a specific image,” Boger said. “As a result, we may be comparing our unvarnished personal life to a very glossy image of someone else’s and so we aren’t as satisfied with our own lives.”
But Boger also thinks it’s important to note that social media does benefit people in their relationships as well.
“For marginalized or highly geographically dispersed groups, social media may be a key method by which they maintain their sense of community and may be vital to them entering into relationships,” she said.
Likewise, Royka thinks social media can positively impact relationships as well.
“I believe that social media, if used in a healthy manner, has a positive effect on healthy committed relationships,” Royka said. “Having easy access to social media as we do today may make communication easier for many healthy couples, therefore creating a positive effect.”
So, dating during the post-social media era isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, at least for most people. But another issue that raised some questions is if technology has made it easier to commit infidelity.
Thanks to technology, people are now able to create a secure secret world where they can download apps such as Hide my Calls or Hide my Texts, which make it very tempting to find people near you and set up a quick meetup at your convenience.
Royka thinks this is true, but only within relationships with pre existing problems.
“Since social media is a platform for connection, it can exacerbate already existing problems in unhealthy relationships, perhaps making problems like cheating easier to do and hide,” Royka said. “However, if both people in the relationship are committed, serious and happy, there shouldn't be any problems caused by social media.”
According to a 2016 research by Statistic Brain, 57% of men and 54% of women admitted to committing infidelity in every relationship they’ve had. This statistic shows that cheating appears to be common among people.
Boger explained that infidelity isn’t new, but rates of infidelity do vary, however, and it appears to have become more common. And technology does provide a way to encounter people who are not your current partner.
“Infidelity rates have increased, with women more markedly than with men,” Boger said. “Does this finding mean that technology has made it easier for women to cheat than it does for men? It’s complicated. First, [we] can’t be entirely sure that the differential increase in infidelity between men and women means that women are actually committing it more—they may be reporting it more.”
Boger said that when [we] look at social behaviors such as sexual activity, it’s common to get discrepant results from men and women, where men may overreport the number of sex partners they have, overreport the number of sexual encounters they have, or both. And this is because men with multiple sexual contacts or encounters is a tell-tale sign of masculinity.
Boger thinks that women may underreport one or the other, or both because women with multiple partners or a highly active sex life may be called a variety of different things, most of them negative.
She thinks that if the stigma attached to women having multiple sexual contacts or having a high frequency of sexual encounters diminishes, women might be more likely to report accurately or at least less inaccurately about their sexual behaviors.
Boger also thinks because women work now in numbers far higher than prior to the 1960s. The factors of working outside of the home and technology may make it easier to commit infidelity because these women are in contact with more people.
Technology does lower the effort involved in infidelity, but Boger said it’s not the only thing doing so.
She thinks the consumption of programmed media separate from technology generally, exposure to media that portrays infidelity in a less stigmatizing fashion may indirectly contribute to an increase in infidelity. However, she doesn’t think everyone who uses technology extensively consumes a great deal of programmed media.
Negatively or positively technology has impartially impacted our generation. So, technology isn’t to blame for insecure people as well as people with unrealistic relationship goals.
Boger shared an experience she encountered during graduate school when she and a fellow student, in a conversation about a class they were co-teaching, ended up discussing dating.
“This other student made the comment that if they didn’t have a serious relationship where marriage was an option by the time they were 30, there would be something wrong with them,” she said. “I just … stared. I was a couple years older than the other person, but not more than that—and I’d never in my life considered evaluating myself based on whether I was likely to get married by any specific age, or even whether I was in a relationship at all.”
Boger could not see herself as a failure, or as defective, due to circumstances that by necessity involve the active participation of another person whom she could not control. She found this to be deeply strange.
For people who find it hard to date in the pre-social media era, Boger shared some insightful information.
“I’d probably encourage them to be realistic about their goals and the specific activities they are doing to reach those goals,” she said. “I’d also ask them if they’ve evaluated their life generally to see if they’re satisfied in other domains. If they are, it’s a good way for them to see that they have a fulfilling life—not perfect, but really quite good—so they can put their dating and relationship situation in perspective.”