It’s undeniable that the internet and social media have transformed the way we date and navigate our relationships. From googling crushes before we meet them, to swiping on strangers, to texting our partner about takeout from the other end of the couch, technology has altered the way we meet, communicate, and keep in touch.
Gearing up for that Hallmark holiday of love, we’re taking a look at some ways tech has changed the relationship game. Normally, articles like this are rife with doom and gloom pearl-clutching about the decline of eye contact and the horrors of convenience culture, but after a year in which the necessity of tech-mediated social contact became a balm rather than a bug, we decided to take a more uplifting angle.
So here are four ways technology has changed relationships—for the better!
The old adage “there are plenty of fish in the sea” seems to ring true when it comes to dating apps. (That is, if you set your radius to more than a mile away.) According to a Pew research study from 2020, 30% of U.S. adults have used or use a dating app. What was once stigmatized is now general practice when we’re searching for someone special. In our increasingly isolated world, dating apps break the digital ice and make it easier to approach someone new once a mutual interest has been established.
But if selfies and swiping aren’t your style, there’s even an app for that, too. Text-based “dating and friends” app Lex is for the queer community and recreates the retro feel of newspaper personals. Plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of apps to go fishing in!
Forget romanticized communication methods like letter-writing, carrier pigeons, or messages in a bottle—we’ve got WiFi. With dating app features like Tinder’s passport option, which lets you swipe around the world rather than just within your current city, and more than 5 billion people with mobile phones worldwide, not only can you meet someone from far away, but you can also maintain a relationship that transcends geography and timezones.
Text messages, Snaps, DMs, FaceTime, and Zoom have all enabled us to connect with loved ones far and wide at our leisure. Just as we’ve all learned to adapt to a new way of socializing during the pandemic, couples can use more creative methods for making each other part of their daily routines even if they’re not face-to-face. For example, USA Today suggests taking FaceTime walks with your partner, or using Netflix’s “party” feature to watch movies “together.”
Keeping up with everyone we meet has never been easier, especially with the amount of our lives that we share online. (Though we should be conscious not to overshare.) The internet also makes it easier to reconnect with people from our past. Usually, a simple Google search (or Facebook, or Instagram) pulls up the whereabouts of an old flame. Or, we can revert back to the pre-social media method of calling everyone in the Yellow Pages with our ex’s name.
Though the “talking versus texting” debate is a highly contested one, there’s no denying that texting reigns supreme when it comes to modern communication. Whether we’re passing virtual notes with our partners throughout the work day, starting a shared order with them on Uber Eats, or liking their cute new pic on Instagram, communication has become more frequent now that it can be done on the fly in ways that are convenient, light-touch, and don’t demand immediate attention that we may not always have.
There’s another benefit to texting, too: Its asynchronous nature buys you time to craft a response. This may be more crucial in early stages of relationships, but texting allows you to formulate witty replies that may have crashed and burned IRL or maintain an important boundary you might have caved on in person. Plus, you can embellish texts with emojis, gifs, and photos, adding meaning and nuance not always possible with words alone.
So stay in this Valentine’s Day and take advantage of some virtual ways to show extra love to someone old or new.