Digitalization of Relationships… It’s Complicated

Let’s face it. Relationships have changed.

Meeting people, dating, and love is different in the modern age with newfound access to a multitude of platforms ranging from Eharmony to Bumble. Even aspects of availability to entertainment has made an impact on the initial development of relationships (“Netflix and Chill”). And for the many Facebook goers who are reading this, I’m sure we’ve all come across a friend who has shared one of those shitty Buzzfeed or Tab articles talking about how dating “used to be” or generalizing all women down to 21 Reasons to Date a Girl from Texas. The point is, it’s all changed: Our expectations, our practices, and our reality. I’m going to attempt to offer insight on the development of the digital world meshing into the world of our love life. Hopefully, we can spark a conversation that can make us take a step back and really think about how to use technology in our love lives moving forward.

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Pretty sure someone important at some point said, “Speak what you know.” Alright, so what do I know exactly? Well, I’d argue that I know a whole lot about dating culture these days considering that I’m a 21-year-old male in college. Not only have I experienced it myself, but I’ve been able to observe a plethora of data from friends, family, and even adults in the workplace.

To me, it seems that the digital world first began getting involved relationships in two ways. First, through practicality measures, and second, through social status. Speaking to the former, online dating platforms such as Match.com changed the game, acting as a medium for adult singles to find their significant other online. Since it’s creation in 1995, it managed to register over 26M adults within 7 years. Speaking to the latter, I’d argue that the next big step for the digitalization of relationships came with Facebook with the open air policy of the relationship status. Relationship statuses in my adolescence were a hot topic. With the whole school able to see who broke up, who just got together, or who is in the infamous “It’s complicated” category. Declaring your status was simply a way to announce your commitment to someone else. If it wasn’t F.B.O. (Facebook Official), it meant that you weren’t actually dating. That was the social norm.

So that’s a scary thing to say… In order to be in a relationship status, you had to have that information available online for others to see and whatever wasn’t available to the public wasn’t good enough to be taken seriously. Now, of course, things have changed a bit, but at least at the time that’s how it worked in Minnetonka High School in Minnesota when I was there.

But what about the strategies and social norms today? How much has technology taken over since it’s first involvement?

Not only is online dating is still everywhere, social media platforms that aren’t even solely meant for finding the love of your life act as part of the introduction process of modern dating. What used to be sparking up a conversation at a bar is now known as sliding into the DM’s. Typically speaking, a male specimen would create an attraction for a girl that he doesn’t know personally but knows of. This attraction no longer prompts a casual “hello” in person – Oh god no. That’s too creepy. Nowadays, the common move is to find her social media accounts and privately message her because that makes sense. Online stalking and messaging her. Totally.

 

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Here we observe a male specimen using the automobile image camouflage to distract the female from his obvious intentions.

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Similar to the first male, this individual is using the art of song to reference his actions. Notice how the female is able to counter at first, but not efficient enough to fully evade the approach.

 

But let’s look beyond the fact that someone can be messaged at literally any point of the day and talk about the applications that are actually supposed to instigate a relationship. Reverting back to Match.com, it started out as introducing strangers to people that share common interests and values. Meanwhile, the “professional” dating platforms still exist, digitalization has evolved to techniques that purely rely on outward appearance. Consider Tinder for example. The app projects images of a potential mate. You, and said potential mate, have the option to swipe left or right depending on the level of attraction. If both parties swipe right, then the match is made and the option to open an online chat is presented.

Okay so we know that the whole introduction process has been digitalized, but what about that first initial date? The in-person interaction can’t necessarily be digitalized, but the practice itself has been. When I think about the quintessential movie date, I think back to Image result for obama changewhen my mom would drop my friend group off at the mall where we coordinated to meet with an equally sized friend group of girls. The plan would always be to sit next to your crush and have a nervous sweat breakdown for the first hour of the movie. After gathering up enough preteen courage, you’d put your arm around the girl and leave it there, frozen, for the next hour. The movie would end, someone’s mom would pick up the boys and we’d talk about our personal victories all night while shotgunning Code Red Mountain Dew and playing Call of Duty. Now, in college? Oh, right. A person invites someone else over to watch a Netflix movie in an attempt to initiate intercourse within the first half hour. We’ve come so far.

The game has changed more than Obama’s ’08 campaign slogan.

 

So what do we do moving forward?

Don’t let technology dictate your personality. It should be the other way around.

In my mind, there is a clear marginal return with technology use and dating. It’s important to find your own equilibrium to maximize the relationships you develop without letting the digital world to impede on the organic nature of human emotion. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of doing some of the things noted above.

Now I’ll admit, I’m guilty of doing some of the things I mentioned early on in this blog.

And yes, I’m completely willing to exploit my current relationship to prove a point. I met her in person by some random connection through my sister. I eventually friended her on multiple social media accounts (it was a two-way street) and managed to get her phone number. My girlfriend and I actually had our first date/hangout with what our friends joke about today to be known as “HBOGO and Chill”. But what mattered is that we let our personalities drive how we got to know each other; technology was simply a bonus. We kept things PG and after our first movie date, we went to a real date at a restaurant. Crazy right? A real one-on-one date. And now a year later she’s studying abroad in Thailand and we rely on technology to stay in touch. Wouldn’t want to be like that dude from the Notebook who wrote all of those letters for nothing. I think… I don’t really remember the movie.Image result for i wrote you a letter everyday for a year gif

But beyond myself, there is practicality to these platforms. As we get older (or should I say way older for the MBA students), the ease of technology can help us spark what could otherwise be a missed connection. But it’s important to still let our true selves guide the way and avoid the whole “fake it until you make it” approach.

On the other hand, there are break-ups. Oh yes, the psychotic mind game of social media to send a figurative online middle finger to your ex, but that’s a different blog for a different time.

 

 

 

 

7 comments

  1. Love this post mostly because it’s interesting for me, a 27-year old married woman, to see how the “youngins” find their significant others. The dating world has changed so much since I was in it and I talk about that with my friends pretty often. My single friends had to explain to me what Tinder is once it got big, and it was pretty hard to understand how an app like that could lead to real relationships. I think the growing digital side of dating allows more timid/nervous people a better chance at finding a significant other, but unfortunately it also allows for more superficial, one-time encounters that probably cause a lot of emotional damage.

  2. I’m not sure dating had changed significantly moreso just the communication methods used. People used to get drunk and hit on people in bars and now they get drunk, tinder to meet someone of mutual interest at a bar, and then see what happens. Same end result just a different way of getting there. I think social media and dating apps have made it much easier to filter out poor matches and save some time but it still comes down to personal interaction.

  3. I really liked this post because it made it super clear that with these apps its really easy to get lost in it all when relationship building should be something that is taken a little slower to really get to know the person you’re trying to get to know. Really good point about how personalities should be allowed to flourish and these platforms can be a method of instigating that.

  4. Very nice post! Especially resonated with the F.B.O. phenomenon. One of those things that makes you reflect on what life was like for relationships before facebook relationship statuses were a thing. Member when cell phones weren’t around and you had to wait to use a land line? Yes, I’m one of the MBA students… how did you guess?

  5. Your humor shows in this piece and I enjoyed your reference to FBO. The world of social media and dating is a little alien to me: I am a little older and didn’t get on FB until 3 or 4 years ago in my early 30s. However those little buttons can be pesky especially when one is emotional. My brother accidently invited everyone of his FB friends to an event a couple years ago- It was a announcement of his divorce- OPPS. I liked it anyway :)

  6. Great read! I don’t necessarily think that dating in college has changed in the past 5-10 years with the advent of social media, it’s just the form of communication has shifted away from making the first move in person or online. I still think men/women who have the “wit and charm” to make a great first impression will succeed regardless of how the first move is made.

  7. Nice post. Although I haven’t dated in the past 20 years or so, I do think that social media is changing the dating scene, yet I’m not so sure as much in college. All those nostalgic stories of guys asking girls out on discrete dates didn’t happen much in my day, either. I think SM does change it more AFTER college, where you can continue to meet people easily even though you’re no longer in a socially-saturated situation.

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