Surprising Ways Social Media Has Recently Changed Relationships

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Surprise: not only are people meeting online in higher numbers than they were five years ago, it has already been quite some time since that number’s eclipsed the number of romances kicked off during an in-person meeting. Okay, not so surprising, but online dating and social media are barely a decade-old industry, and things are changing faster with each passing year. Looking back, it’s actually pretty shocking how different things are.

 

Photo: Johan Larsson/Flickr/Creative Commons


Who we meet: we’re getting really, really picky
You probably won’t recognize many of the dating sites Forbes rated as best-in-class five years ago—Mate1? SparkNetworks? TRUE? Nothing?—and that’s because general dating sites have been gradually overtaken by more niche services like the Tinders, Christian Mingles and Grindrs of the world. Over the last five years, the specialized dating pool has grown at a rate of roughly 3.5 per cent annually, according to an IBISWorld report from last year, and it’s expected to continue growing at a rate of five per cent through 2018. This indicates that we’re looking for romances in an ever-shrinking subsect of people—that is, people that check off all the boxes. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for your dream girl, there’s at least one site for basketball fans. Really.

How we flirt: we’re still shy in real life
We now are officially more likely to flirt online than in real life. In a recent poll of 2,000 British adults by BroadBandChoices.co.uk, only 50 per cent of respondents were confident enough to ask someone out in person and 38 per cent of us felt too shy to talk to their love interest face-to-face. However, 20 per cent of people now use Facebook messages while dating, holding the belief that phone calls are far too personal to attempt. When it all shakes out, there’s also a higher chance we make the first move online, too.

How we date: it’s an always-on relationship
While it’s easy to label social media as the culprit when our face-to-face romantic interactions suffer, University of Oregon sociologist C.J. Pascoe has found that the always-on nature of social media has actually increased the next generation’s expectations of availability to their partners and improved their communication. These days, successful romantic partners keep themselves connected not just through text and IM, but through the full-time web of SnapChats, tweets and private messages. We switch media on-the-fly, ensuring we’re never out of range and never not dating. (Hint: text bae back ASAP).

How we cheat: with our spouse in the same room
Dating (well, cheating) sites like Ashley Madison have been around a long time, but a recent survey by a similar den of adultery known as Victoria Milan suggests cheaters have gone mobile. The stats show that 89 per cent of site members who answered the poll have used smartphones and tablets to cheat on their spouse, and 64 per cent of the cheaters even did it with their spouses in the same room. If those numbers are any indicator, it’s a brave new world for the unfaithful.

Why we break up: we still hate it when our partner uses social media
It appears that the same technology that may have sparked your romance could spell the end of it. A recent University of Missouri-Columbia study sampling 580 adult Twitter users found that the more active couples were on Twitter, the more likely it was that their relationship would face emotional and physical cheating, breakups, or divorce. Similarly, Computers in Human Behaviour found that American states seeing a 20 per cent annual uptick in Facebook account registrations from 2008 to 2010 faced an associated 2.18 per cent increase in divorce rates. Of course, the above metric about cheating over social media can’t be much help.

How we break up: we play to win

According to The Atlantic, “winning the breakup” only recently entered the crowd-sourced Urban Dictionary in 2012, but it seems a fairly accurate way to describe our breakups these days. Social media has made every relationship status change a public spectacle, meaning we face increased pressure to conduct damage control. That translates to a 225 per cent spike in social media usage right after a breakup—after all, a lack of posting makes us appear sad and bitter, while #weekendswag selfies are the ticket to projecting confidence. 
 
 
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