Social media has added a whole new dimension to the lovescape. Dating sites may have prepared us to have some online information about dating prospects, but social media has made our date’s lives an open book before we even meet them, all at the click of a button.
Courtship always involved getting to know someone slowly, gradually introducing them to friends and then family as the relationship progressed. Today, it’s possible to Google a date and find out information about their career on LinkedIn, to see pictures of their friends on Facebook, to check out their outings on Instagram, and to see the things they love on Pinterest – all before shaking their hand.
As a psychologist who specializes in dating, I’ve seen how this can complicate things.
When people date online, it’s reasonable to do a quick Google search on a prospective date. Many singles often ask for their date’s full name before they meet in person, or they’ll ask for his or her business card at the first meeting. People then generally want to check out if that person is married and where they work, in the hopes of preventing getting to know someone who’s hiding some big lie. This quick step makes them feel as though they will at least be meeting a reasonable prospect who is available and can be located by their place of employment, if needed.
According to Mashable.com, around one fourth of people send a Facebook friend request before a first date and 15% of single men have actually cancelled a first date after checking their date’s Facebook page! I find this sad because, even before technology became so advanced, I had a hard time convincing singles to give their dates three in-person meetings without pre-judging them too much!
Then once people are dating, they also have opinions about when to update their relationship status on Facebook. 78% of women and 63% of men say this should happen once they’ve agreed to be exclusive. Wasn’t gaining exclusivity while dating complicated enough? Now we worry about our online relationship status too?!
And there’s a fine line between being careful and self-protective, and becoming a sleuth or a stalker. Being in this ‘virtual research mode’ can put you in a state of fear instead of love. Love is trusting, being open and accepting, not suspicious, invasive and controlling. People have always been able to learn about one another through courtship, after meeting at a party, bar or event. So, why do we now feel that we need to write an FBI brief on them before the second date? Is this romantic or fun?
Furthermore, with the prevalence of cell phone texts and emails, it’s easy for dates to check each other’s phones to see if they are seeing other people. Both women and men will often scan their date’s phones (when possible) for texts, Facebook messages and emails to other dates. They can even see what places they visit when they use their GPS or check in at places on various social media channels. Not only is this an invasion of privacy and trust, but it completely kills the romance and anticipation of regular courtship, which is full of mystery, tenderness and surprises.
People are getting too attached to their cell phones. According to a poll from TIME Magazine, 84% of people surveyed said they couldn’t go a day without their cell phone, 65% of people sleep within reach of their cell phone, and 62% of women actually checked their cell phones during sex! 50% of singles said that technology has made dating even murkier.
It has definitely changed courtship tactics as well. According to the latest “State of Dating in America Report” from Spark Networks, owner and operator of JDate.com, texting is the most prevalent form of communication for people 21-26. The report also says a third of people feel it’s less intimidating to ask someone out via text, but 51% of singles still prefer to schedule dates by phone. And 50% would also break up with someone whom they are casually dating via text. 82% of couples text at least once a day, but according to research, the more they text, the less happy they are as a couple. 46% of singles have become annoyed with someone they’re dating for texting too much. This is problematic because texting also has the expectation of a quicker response, so other singles get annoyed when a date responds too slowly! This seems like a no-win situation!
Even in established relationships, technology can lead to extra strain and strife. According to MarketWatch.com, more than 1/3 of divorce filings in the UK include the word “Facebook” and 80% of US divorce attorneys have seen a rise in cases using social media.
As a couples therapist, psychologist and dating coach, I’ve seen how a virtual relationship where the guy texts a woman many times a day for months can appear very intimate, even though they have only had two actual dates! To me, when used wisely, technology can advance our lives and even love; but real love ultimately happens in real-time and in the flesh. A soulmate can never be completely replaced by a machine. I believe in conscious love and conscious technology that advances that. What do you think?