Romance, Relationships, and Communication in the Digital Age

As an avid reader of romance novels and a point of reference and council for many of my friends regarding matters of the heart, I find myself always analyzing romance. What I've noticed since the big leap into the "Digital Age" in 2005 is how damaging technology can be on interpersonal skills, relationships, and romance. Granted, technology can also help relationships flourish considering how many people travel for work and things like Skype, FaceTime, and Snapchat can make the two involved in the relationship still feel physically connected even while miles or countries apart. I've noticed the good and the bad and find myself being widely set apart from my generation, the digital generation, even if I've grown up with technology and am fluent in it.

I'll start with the negative impacts on romance and relationships since I like to have a happy ending. While social media is lovely, I do love Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter, it can negatively impact relationships and the very concept of romance. For instance, the trust factor in a relationship is very important but social platforms allow you to pretty much track every moment a person does. Why can this be problematic? Think of this scenario. Marc and Alexandra have been in a committed relationship for two months, still quite new but seemingly going in the right direction, when Alexandra notices Marc favored three photos of a very attractive girl she's never met on Instagram. What does this do? It causes a riff in the relationship when it could actually really just be harmless.

Trust in this day and age is even harder to foster which causes tension and relationship to die out before they even start. If we continue with the situation between Marc and Alexandra we can see other issues, as well. First of all, due to technological dependency and the decline of communication and social skills, Alexandra might not be able to properly breach the issue with Marc. This can go one of two ways, usually. The first can be that Alexandra confuses Marc and expects him to read her mind and when he can't they fight and hurt one another verbally. The second can be that Alexandra allows this to be bottled up inside which can lead to constant suspicion and a very unhealthy type of relationship.

I've noticed that many people are more comfortable expressing their thoughts, opinions, and feelings via technology whether it be a social site or an email or a text message. The ability to delete, restructure and rewrite, and hide behind an object when elaborating on specific topics that make a person uncomfortable is why it is so easy for people to become cyberbullies because they don't have to physically say anything to anyone's face. The social skills that many in this technology dependent generation lack is highly due to the ability to text someone rather than call them or speak with them in person and so on. People struggle to understand social cues and norms more than ever because they are not efficient in-person communicators. How can this directly impact romantic relationships? Simple, people can't build an actual relationship if they cannot properly communicate with one another.

I find that the concept of "goal" anything that has become so popular on social media really ruins reality. Honestly, your goal shouldn't be defined by some account's definition of perfect when most times they are superficial and unrealistic. Is it nice to have a clear view of what you want out of a relationship and what you want in a person you are with? Absolutely! Should you settle? Never. My problem that stems from the "goal" accounts is how it doesn't fit for everyone. I may want someone to have dark hair, be a bit cocky, and witty but does that mean you like that same kind of person? Should that be your goal because it is mine? NO! Everyone thinks, operates, and even desires different things. The rise of social media has given way to more pressure to fit into a box for others to like you and for you to not feel alone but should you want to be in a box? My personal opinion is no because I'm perfectly fine being myself.

Yet another issue in the Digital Age that directly impacts romance is the massive hookup culture that is sweeping through the developed worlds. As we move forward with the way we think, we no longer shun sexuality and embrace. I'm all for embracing sexuality but there should be a limit on how to deal with it. People would rather have a friend they can have casual sex with rather than a relationship because it is perfectly "cool" and okay to do that. While I don't think you have to want to marry every person you get horizontal with, the hookup culture actually ruins people's abilities to form meaningful relationships. Think of it this way, how can you know how to do something you'v never had to do? A teenage relationship and an adult relationship are two very different things. Romance and real relationships have taken a back seat to random hookups, friends with benefits, and "kind of together but not really" relationships that usually last a few weeks before one of the participants are bored.

In an age where everything is instantaneous or pretty darn close, I've noticed how people are quick to toss aside meaningful things for quick and easy. As a romantic at heart, this trend terrifies me because I want flowers, hearts, and all the big stops pulled out. I want to go on dates, figure out how to split up the holidays to appease both families, consider the future, and have a healthy relationship with someone who can effectively communicate with me both in person and via technology. I realize I'm a bit old fashioned in that I value certain things more than the average millennial but it should concern more than just me with the way the society norm is headed. The average 20 something year old doesn't want to be "tied down" with "anything serious."

Now that I've completely ruined your life, or maybe not, I'm going to switch to brighter topics. The internet and Wi-Fi have given way to people being able to work from home or really anywhere with Wi-Fi accessibility. Why is that great? Couples can work from home a few days a week to be able to spend more time together while not sacrificing their work time or career. In our fast-paced society it is imperative to always be on the ball. Skype, Oovoo, FaceTime, and the like allow couples to feel physically connected even when they are far apart. These advances help keep people together and can lead to stronger relationships.

The text message can be a way to always be in communication even while working when you can't be on the phone. Honestly, I am always in communication with a few people and this is even more true when I have someone I'm romantically interested in. While in-person or phone call communication is highest, the text message or video chat comes in second. The communication allows for the connection to be felt and also for someone to instantly know you're thinking of them even if you aren't physically with them. I think of goodnight and good morning texts as my usual example. It is always nice to know you are on the other person's mind.