Love & Relationships

Dating in the 21st Century: Effects of Technology on Relationships & Romance

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Is the internet killing the last traces of old-fashioned romance in the 21st century?

While it remains true that, romantically speaking, there are plenty of fish in the sea, the way we approach catching those “fish” has changed wildly. As new technologies emerge, they create a dating world unlike anything before. From dating apps and social media to mobile communication and unprecedented global connectivity, the effects of modern technology are becoming obvious with how we now meet people, flirt, date and display our relationships to others.

Contending with changing norms and unexpected challenges, singles, young couples and even those who are married are experiencing a new way to learn about love and relationships. What do these new opportunities look like in the 21st-century dating world?

Dating in the 21st Century

Dating in the 21st century is certainly a unique experience. Unlike previous generations, the ability to connect with others not only locally but globally is now a real possibility. With that in mind, it’s arguably both a gift and a curse. It’s fair to admit that with such a vast sea of “mates” to pick from, it takes a lot of time, effort and motivation to continuously wade through matches in order to find “The One.”

The Modern Struggle to Find, Meet and Connect

Today’s singles often have a negative attitude toward their romantic prospects. While modern technology has made it possible to enjoy a more diverse pool of people, the dating world has also become highly oversaturated, making it difficult to find, meet and connect with the right love interest. Furthermore, the internet has made it even easier to deceive those looking for love, with catfishing and misrepresentation of key details like job, age and interests.

It can seem as though dating in the 21st century has become an art form many are trying to perfect — with high stakes and little payoff each time around. Admittedly, it can be rather deflating after experiencing several awkward Tinder dates. It also becomes tricky as the line between a casual fling and committed relationship begins to blur.

Casual Flings vs. Long-Term Commitment

Good communication is an essential ingredient for any healthy, happy relationship. Moreover, communication shouldn’t just start in the middle of a relationship. It’s important to set it as the foundation for your budding romance. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but being honest and upfront from the outset can save everybody from potentially wasting their time in the long run.

Casual flings are becoming more common between dating partners, and while that isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it has an effect on how we commit and love.

In an interview with The Washington Post, biological anthropologist and Match.com’s chief scientific adviser, Helen Fisher, explained that she “wasn’t surprised to find that singles were parlaying casual intimacy into commitment.

It’s part of a theory she has about how singles are looking to make a connection quickly and commit more slowly, a concept she calls “slow love.” Some argue that mobile communication in the modern world has made it much easier for people to miscommunicate (or not communicate at all, for that matter). However, it is possible to use modern technology as a stepping stone toward long-term commitments, that “slow love” Fisher theorized about. In this century, how and when we define our relationships may be different than the past, but the need for communication in casual and long-term relationships is still vital.

Effects of Technology on Relationships

It’s clear that technology is affecting our relationships, and it’s interesting to consider how we choose to display our love to others. Furthermore, how does seeing other people’s relationships online affect how we are in our own relationship, or even in future ones?  

Budding Romance and Getting Facebook Official

Dating in the 21st century tends to come with some unspoken social rules. For example, many partners find it important make their relationship “Facebook official.” Where once the primary signal of a relationship’s seriousness was an engagement ring, modern romance is rife with milestones visible only to those on social media. Additionally, many wonder when to make their new romance Facebook official. Is a casual fling worth the new status, or do you wait until you’ve had that “So, what are we?” discussion. It might seem arbitrary, but this kind of online display can actually have an effect of your relationship.

According to a study from 2015, “individuals who display their relationship status on Facebook are more dependent in their relationship (i.e., more satisfied, committed, invested, and with lower perceived relational alternatives).” In other words, individuals in relationships that are “Facebook official” report being in more committed, stronger relationships than non-Facebook-official counterparts.” While this shouldn’t be a sign of a healthy or unhealthy relationship, the atmosphere of today’s social world tends to include telling all your friends and family that you’re social media official and off the market.

Long-Distance Romance and Keeping Love Alive

One significant advantage to our online world is the ability to connect with our romantic partners almost anywhere. Long-distance dating has become more successful in the 21st century (or at the very least, easier). With real-time messaging, FaceTime, social media and even virtual reality, couples can continue their relationship miles, even countries apart.

Today, a working relationship doesn’t have to end just because of a job or school transfer. While physical connection with our partner is still important, the distance can be softened by the ability to “see” one another through a webcam each night. Keeping love alive, no matter how far apart, is very much possible in this modern world, and we can thank the advancements in technology for that.

From Courtship to Engagement: Benefits of Digital Technology on Romance

While some may feel that relationships nowadays are hampered by technology, the truth is that it is easier than ever to connect with new possible dates or your significant other. Reaching the point of a happy, compatible relationship can really be the tricky part.

People may not think of their dating app exchanges as courting, but for many in the modern era, it truly is the path toward long-term relationships, and even engagements and marriage. The effects of technology on relationships certainly present both pros and cons, but the benefits can be found in recent studies. For instance, millennials are helping to decrease the divorce rate as they become more selective with their partners and wait until they feel more stable in their lives before popping the question. While our courtships are certainly less formal, it’s important to acknowledge what you value in your dating life — Love? Marriage? Short-term relationships? —  and bring that to your digital life.

As New Statesman America explains, it’s not the internet killing romance. In fact, as humans we still know what we want in our dating lives, but we just might be bad at communicating that.

Furthermore, they explain, “hook-up culture is constantly pushed in front of us as a source of moral panic, despite the fact that those uninterested in it are unlikely to be affected by it. One study carried out by dating site PlentyOfFish.com found that anyone who included the word ‘love’ in their profile was more likely to find it than other users — they weren’t sucked into a disposable hook-up culture, simply because they weren’t interested in it.” Communicating and seeking out what you truly want in a relationship can make dating in the 21st century a lot easier. Trust yourself more and those first dates might just get easier.

While dating, no matter what century, can be rather painful at times, it’s fair to say that the effects of technology on relationships haven’t been all bad. We now have more opportunities to meet unique, engaging individuals that make our hearts flutter. Navigating this new digital world can become difficult (sadly, there is no user manual for online dating), but it has opened the door to more possibilities of love, happiness and romantic adventures. The next move is yours.

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