The rise of relationships online: is romance reduced to our phones?

Time and time again, couples in long-distance relationships break up over social media: we have seen it with this year’s Love Island winners Amber Gill and Greg O’Shea; and many students recognise it as a common occurrence that signals the end of a relationship. Romantic relationships have involved communication over digital platforms since the latters’ emergence in the early 2000s, and it is clear that technology has evolved from the phone calls and letters that marked correspondence in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Historically, social media has emerged relatively recently, but why is it that it dominates many romantic relationships today?
Conducting partnerships predominantly online can be helpful for long-distance relationships because of the improved communication; this is undoubtedly beneficial for many, especially students who stay together when they move to separate universities. Social media is therefore integral to this communication, as it allows couples to stay in contact regardless of distance – you only need good internet access to FaceTime or continue a Snapchat streak.
Nevertheless, all of these benefits are reliant on particular circumstances: social media can be a drain on your time and is difficult to keep up with. Solely depending on this communication to uphold a relationship can be trying at the best of times. Problems arise when relationships take place over a long distance; the need to remain in contact is heightened, and this subconsciously affects our thought process and way in which the relationship is viewed by the parties involved. Using social media as a primary means of communication can encourage suspicion or jealousy of other people which may affect a relationship, or conversations can simply become mundane because the relationship largely exists through a screen. Social media usage can also take up a lot of time, acting more as a distraction in a way that meeting face-to-face would not. Meeting in person is often more fulfilling for couples and social media is largely seen as a way to bridge the gap between reunions, rather than as a replacement.
It is not just long-distance relationships that use social media as a way in which to keep in touch. In today’s culture, approaching someone in a bar has been replaced with a text. Our generation has become so used to this form of technology as a means to create a romantic interest that it begs the question whether romance itself has become reliant on such technological means.
Most of us choose to conduct our relationships online because of convenience or necessity due to circumstances; it is important to note that purely digital relationships do occur but are often in the minority. Whilst there have been significant technological advances that facilitate digital communication, this is not a medium in which a relationship can solely take place – the large majority of us still need face-to-face contact from time to time in order to make a relationship work.
We have definitely progressed in the way we use digital technology, but its intrusion into our lives can often become a source of tension. Interconnectedness can help as well as harm, and recognition of this can aid our understanding, and thus our usage, of digital platforms.
Image: Tumisu via Pixabay

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