To swipe right or not to swipe right, that is the question in today’s dating world. Relationships in general are a huge part of everyone’s life, but romantic relationships are perhaps the most important. Romantic relationships determine love, heartbreak and possibly who you spend the rest of your life with (or at least we like to think so). Romantic relationships can cause people to completely change their lives, from moving places or moving jobs, to changing friend groups. Families and legacies are determined by romantic relationships; they are a central part to almost all people’s lives. These relationships have changed so much from the 1980’s and 90’s to today. This is for a variety of reasons, cultures change, opinions change, but perhaps the most influential and important factor that has changed romantic and sexual relationships is the introduction of new technology.
In the 80’s and early 90’s there was, of course, technology that helped facilitate communication such as the telephone, TV and just plain old paper and pencil. But how did that old technology shape the way people went about their romantic relationships? About 93% of households had a telephone in 1980, making it the most widely used form of communication (Census, 2011). Because the telephone was not mobile yet people were not able to keep in constant communication, which really affected the way romantic relationships played out. People only had access to those they met through mutual friends or those they came in contact with meaning the pool of partners they could choose from was very limited compared to today. When someone met someone they were interested in they would give them their phone number to communicate their next visit. The communication between them was not constant, when they were together they communicated and if they called each other on the phone they were communicating. The only way they could find out information about the person they were interested in was either through mutual friends or just by spending time with them. This was a very different way of dating and “talking” than today’s version of the two.
The dating world today is completely different than in 80’s thanks to amazing advances in technology, more specifically communication technology. As mentioned before, in the 80’s the main technology was the landline telephone. Since the introduction of mobile phones and the Internet, everything has changed. Both of these innovations opened up new doors for finding potential partners and both affected the way partners communicate.
The mobile phone was first invented around 1983, and it was a big bulky hunk of plastic that some very lucky and wealthy businessmen could afford (Evolution, 2009). It was almost the size of a briefcase so, yes it was mobile, but good luck trying to fit it in your pocket, or even in a small bag for that matter. The first phone that was widely adopted by the public didn’t come around until 1992 or 1993 (Evolution, 2009). These phones allowed people to be in contact more often with each other but still not to the extent that they are today. In 2004 texting begin to take off, and people were getting cell phones at much younger ages. Texting was the first step in continuous and instantaneous communication, allowing partners or potential partners to remain in contact throughout the day instead of calling each other at the end of the day to talk. It also allowed partners to plan dates more easily than before. As of right now 91% of adults own a cell phone, which is a huge increase in a few shorts years, up from 65% in 2005 (Rainie, 2013). This just shows how many people have adopted this technology meaning the impact of this technology on society has reached to almost everyone.
Another technological advancement or innovation that was up and coming right around the time of the cell phone was the Internet. The first commercial sites started popping up around 1993 and 1995, and that is also when the Internet is believed to have taken off for the public’s use (Bryant, 2011). The internet was another way for people to keep in contact with each other, using email, instant messaging, and it was also a time where you could look someone up before you met them or after a date to learn information about them. As of right now about 25% of Americans aged 18-29 have tried online dating and about 10% of relationships start from online dating sites and apps (Smith & Anderson, 2016). The Internet also created a platform where people could create a profile about themselves, and search for other potential partners, also know as online dating. That being said looking up people online was made easier by another technological and social innovation, social media.
Social media is a platform where people create a profile to broadcast themselves to the world and connect with their friends over the Internet. Social media became mainstream around 2005 when MySpace was the booming social media site of the time (DMTS, 2014). Social media has become a central technology used in many peoples lives throughout the world, with 90% of young adults, ages 18-29, using one or more social media site or app (Perrin, 2015). Social media has affected the dating world by allowing people to stay in contact more, learn more about their partner or potential partner. Now these effects social media has had on dating aren’t all positive, seeing a picture of the girl you are talking to with another boy can lead to jealously and can ruin relationships, having access to so many other people whenever you want can lead people to possibly cheat more, and can lead to all sorts of other issues, just like you will see with most other technological innovations, they come with positives and negatives.
Now social media was made possible by the invention of the Internet, and the mobile phone combined with the Internet gave rise to something else, something that has had possibly the most profound affect on the dating world and the world as a whole, the smartphone. The smartphone as I am sure you know, and most likely have one, combined the mobile phone with the Internet and all sorts of other little technologies. Smartphones have so many functions it most likely has replaced ten pounds of stuff you would normally have laying around your house. As of right now about 64% of adults in the US own a smartphone, and 85% of adults aged 18-29 own a smartphone (Anderson, 2015). The smartphone gives the user the networking and connect-ability of the Internet, and the communication power of the cellphone. This innovation is largely responsible for the dating changes that have occurred especially in the last few years. The smartphone allows people to constantly be in contact with each other throughout the day, by texting, tweeting, calling and all sorts of other things. It allows people to look up others in seconds to see what they are like and to show their friends their new guy or girl they are talking to. Although the effects of smartphones aren’t all positive; a recent study has shown that about 22.6 percent of people experience relational problems stemming from a phenomenon know as “pphubbing” or partner phone snubbing (Penn, 2015). This is the act of a partner spending more time on their phone “snubbing” their partner by not spending time with them. This is a huge negative impact of smartphones on the dating world. The constant communications that smartphones offer can also make partners feel crowded and like they do
not have their own space. Smartphones allow needy people to constantly expect attention from their partner, when in the 80’s you could not expect constant communication because there was no way to have that without being face to face. As much of a positive influence smartphones are on relationships, sadly there are some negative effects.
With the rise of smartphones came the rise of dating apps, which are basically streamlined online dating. There are sites like Tinder, which is almost like a hookup app because you judge solely off of pictures. There is a newer app called coffee meets bagel where it is the same concept as Tinder, you see many different profiles of people and you swipe left for no and right for yes, but coffee meets bagel is more for those who are looking for a long lasting relationship and not a one night stand.
Overall dating, as we have seen, has changed immensely over the years. With the rise of mobile phones, the Internet and then eventually the transition to smart phones and dating apps, there has been a lot of change. Some good change, some bad change, but I am currently happy with the technologically influenced dating world I am currently living in. Who knows what the next few decades have in store for technology and its effects on the way we live.
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