Is technology killing romance? Don’t get me wrong, technology is great. The internet keeps us educated, informed, socialized – but the digital age has also made interpersonal relationships a bit, well, impersonal. I mean, it’s hard to express your affection for someone in 140 characters or less.
Everything to picking out a date to breaking up (yes, it’s happened to me) can now be done at the push of a button. And obsessing about our texts, emails and social media sometimes makes us inattentive when we’re out on a date.
Don’t take my word for it. A survey done by two professors, Sarah Coyne from Brigham Young University and Brandon McDaniel from Pennsylvania State University, found that 75% of 140 women in committed relationships feel technology is interfering with their love lives.
Coyne even coined a name for it – technoference. What can we do about it? We’ve grown accustomed to having information and communication at our fingertips at all times. So how can you stop technology from killing the romance in your relationship without throwing your smart phone out the window?
I’ve got five ideas that might help.
No, I don’t mean a text or an email. I mean a letter. A love letter to be exact. Have you ever received a love letter? Sent one? If not, you’re not alone. According to a survey of 2,500 people done by the National Trust, Europe’s biggest conservation organization, 62% have never sent a love letter. However, according to that same survey 70% of women and 53% of men would rather receive a love letter or poem than a text or email. If so many people prefer a love letter to a text, how come more don’t send them?
Maybe we should restart an old trend? I mean, wouldn’t you love to read something like this from your guy?
“And as I love you utterly, so have you now become the whole world of my spirit.”
Doesn’t that make your heart flutter? That was an excerpt from a letter that artist Rockwell Kent to his wife Frances back in 1926. Perhaps if we start doing that again – taking the time to write it out, put it in an envelope, address and stamp it and put it in the mailbox – we will start receiving them in return. How romantic would that be? Using our phones to communicate on a daily basis doesn’t mean that every once in a while we shouldn’t take the time to express how we feel in a more significant and romantic manner.
I know, a lot of us hate calling anymore, don’t we? I’m as guilty as the next person. For me, there’s no commitment to texting. I can stop responding whenever you want or straight out ignore them from the get-go. It’s easy, but impersonal.
And maybe you’re not the type to write a love letter. Not everyone can express themselves well in the written word. But can you express yourself better with a call? Perhaps you should make it a point to dial the digits if you have something important to say to your significant other, even if it’s simply, “I love you.” I understand that not everyone can answer a phone call during a work day, but wouldn’t it be nice to listen to your messages after a long meeting or a rough day at work to hear your boyfriend professing his love for you? Don’t you think he would feel the same?
Texting should be used in addition to using the phone, but it’s become a crutch for real relationship communication according to dating coach Evan Marc Katz. Plus, texting is easy to misinterpret. Without voice inflections, sarcasm through text can be interpreted as unkind. Just the other day I was writing with a friend and we were joking back and forth. I wrote, “Jerk.” I was totally kidding, but I didn’t include a smiley face, so he took it as an insult. I bent over backwards to apologize. Luckily, he believed that I was trying to be funny and blew it off.
Plus, in my opinion I think texting allows us to objectify one another too easily. We get to hide behind the safety of our smart phone and act however we want. I think that’s why when online dating, some guys get ballsy and send unsolicited dick pics. They don’t know us. At the moment they push the send button, we are nothing but a profile picture to them. The same can be said for sexting. We’re brave and safe on the phone. We can say anything we want, and, you know, it’s hot. But honestly, wouldn’t you rather be doing the act instead of texting about it? Sorry for the TMI, but I would. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Get face to face.
Did you know the population in Japan is shrinking? It declined by 244,000 people in 2013. Japanese young adults are not interested in having sex. They’ve even given it a name – sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome,” According to an article in The Guardian, Ai Aoyama, a dominatrix turned sex and relationship counsellor from Tokyo, believes the nation is suffering from “a flight from human intimacy.”
Why? What would make an entire demographic stop having sex? It’s because they’re not in relationships. And a survey done by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance found 30% of single Japanese men have never even dated a woman! Technology plays a big part in the Japanese intimacy detachment. It’s neutralizing romance. Less of the Japanese are seeking tangible relationships and opting for virtual ones – and not even with real people, they’re game characters. How weird and impersonal is that?
So what does this have to do with you? Japan has always been more technologically advanced than most countries. Is this a foreshadowing of our own future? We are already using email, texting, IM, social media and websites to connect with others. Will those things ultimately lead to a complete human disconnection, like it seems to have in Japan? It’s something to think about.
That’s why I think face to face interaction is important. Some things can’t take the place of a voice inflection, body language, and touch. Don’t you love hearing a person laugh, seeing their eyes light up, watching them smile, holding hands, hugging? Oh, and how about kissing? Kissing is my favorite. It’s sensual, intimate, romantic, intense. That’s why, when it comes to online dating, I’m all for meeting up sooner rather than later. You will never know if you truly connect with someone without meeting them. There is something about human contact.
According to the New York Times article, “The End of Courtship,” by Style reporter Alex Williams, dating by technology, or what he calls the “hooking up” culture, is to blame for dating’s demise. He states, “Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they (Millennials) rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
Also, it’s just plain important. A study done by Brigham Young University researchers Lori Schade and Jonathan Sandberg found that significant conversations and apologies that take place through texting do more harm than good. Committed couples can become disconnected by using text to connect. These important conversations should be done in person.
4. Don’t be a stalker.
The internet has made it so easy to find out everything there is to know about a person even before the first date. All you have to do is Google their name and much of their life is right there at your fingertips for the perusing. You can check their Facebook and Twitter to see if they’re socially adept. Read their LinkedIn to find out what kind of work they do. If they have a blog, you can dig in and find out what makes them tick. We have all become internet stalkers.
Learn about your date by talking, not stalking. Get together, talk, ask questions. Okay, check out their dating profile a couple times (don’t go overboard, they can see that shit you know), maybe look up their rap sheet, but other than that, let everything come out organically. Are you in some kind of hurry? No? Then take your time. There’s something sexy about unraveling a person bit by bit.
Technology certainly makes dating easier, but intimacy and the discovery process suffer. Go on dates that allow for communication. I mean, texting, Facebooking and hooking up are not dates. Go for a walk, out for drinks, play a board game. Talk, talk, talk.
Not convinced yet? Think of it this way; would you do these types of things in real life? Would you follow him around to see what he does during the day? Where he works, lives, plays? No you wouldn’t. Why? Because it’s creepy as all hell. Put the shoe on the other foot. How would you feel if someone you’ve not yet dated, or dated once was all up in your Facebook, checking out your pictures, friends, everything you’ve ever liked? I know I would freak out – a lot.
Say you’ve stalked their every page online before your date. Now you have to pretend that you didn’t. You have to act surprised by certain things he reveals. “Oh, I had no idea you liked the Walking Dead.” Liar.
What if something slips?
You: “How did you like living in Oregon?”
Him, scrutinizing you: “How did you know I lived in Oregon?”
You, blushing from embarrassment: “Oh, well, it must have been on your POF profile.”
Him, staring to think you’re a crazy stalker person, which you are: “No. No it wasn’t.”
Um, oops! Before your date you’re already weaving a little web of secrets and lies. Not a good way to start a relationship.
Premature judgement is also a danger when you stalk someone online before the date. What turns you off about people on Facebook? Talking politics? Posting memes or inspirational quotes? Funny cat videos? Vaguebooking? Come on, are these really the things you should be judging him by?
Get together and learn about his character, his traits, his quirks. Find out about his hopes and dreams. It’s fun, like opening presents on Christmas morning. Let everything be a surprise (hopefully they will be good ones, not like the sweater grandma makes you every Christmas).
5. Power down.
According to a 2012 study by Lookout.com, nearly 60% of people surveyed said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone. Younger adults, aged 18-34 are worse; 63% of women and 73% of men say they don’t go an hour without checking their phones. That means that no matter what we’re doing, including going out on a date, we feel we must check our phones.
The struggle is real. I know a lot of people leave their phone out on the table or bar when out with dates. It’s like they won’t survive if it’s not within their sweaty little grasp. Unless you have children, a loved one is on their deathbed, or you are awaiting an organ donor to give you a vital body part, don’t do this. It’s not cool. Muster your will power and ego and go low tech on dates. I’m sure you’ll survive without reading your texts or checking your Facebook for a few hours.
That same study I mention above also found that 30% of people studied admitted that they check their phones during a meal with others. Can you say rude? How do you feel when your date is constantly checking their phone? That’s right, you feel like crap. Make an agreement with your date to turn your phones off. It is not an appendage. You can put it in your purse, your pocket, leave it in the car – whatever it takes to keep from checking it. Give each other your full attention. Make each other feel like the most important thing in the world at that moment.
Yes, we need technology. It’s important. I get that. It’s a great way to connect and stay connected – but it can also be a distraction. We don’t want to adopt “celibacy syndrome”, do we? We want real relationships with actual people in our tangible world, right? And sex. Lots and lots of great sex!
The five tactics I mention above may be a little scary for some, maybe difficult, but they’re not impossible. We need to make each other feel important. Stop pushing the button and start using the pen, dialing the number, getting face time (real face time, not iPhone Face Time). We need to put our need for instant gratification aside and get to know each other gradually, for we are complex mysteries that deserve to be unraveled, not oddities to be examined under a microscope.
Let’s not allow our smart phones and social media to kill our communication skills, our intimacy and our romantic tendencies. Let’s fight to keep them alive. Our relationships may depend on it.