Is our constant access to and accessibility via social media deprecating our relationships? I look into whether this techno-loving is removing our Shortcut to future happiness.
I’ve touched before on the omniprescence of smartphones and social media in our lives, with reference to photography and memories. As I sit down for a date with my laptop, I now want to look the impact of such technology on an ever more personal level, thinking about its place in our relationships, and finding out whether binary is the twenty first century language of love.
On Valentine’s Day 2014, as we all sat down for candlelit dinners, pink wine and champagne truffles, a special relationship was being consummated between two of San Francisco’s most illustrious names: Facebook and Whatsapp. As Mark Zuckerburg laid the table for a romantic meal with his wife, in burst Jan Koum, chocolate-covered strawberries in hand, using Zuckie’s perfectly set table to lay out his cards and negotiate a deal to sell his company. Picturing it, this seems like an almost slapstick personification of how social media can interrupt our one-on-on time with our partners, of the constant presence of such apps in our love lives, and how the intrusion of social networks such as Facebook into our private lives may devalue said intimate times.
To illustrate the impact that technology and social media has made on our relationships, let’s throwback to the 1970’s – the years in which a select few long haired flare-wearers spent chasing my mother. After being asked to a dance by a certain fella, yet not hearing a word from the chap in the preceding week, the bubble-permed redhed slipped off to spend her evening with another Beatles look-alike – only to receive a strict, code-language phonecall from Mum directing her home this instant to the rogue tuxedo-clad gentleman waiting expectantly on her doorstep.
In a society where we are used to communicating with our partners every single day, the idea of not exchanging a word throughout a whole week seems bizarre and alien. Of course, this techno-loving does help us in some departments – Skype facilitates the ‘long-distance’ relationship, allowing us to talk with our other halves like they were in the same room, Facebook keeps all-too-curious girlfriends up to date with exactly who their men have been spending time with, and let’s not forget Snapchat, bringing smiles to long days at work with self-destructing silly pictures from our loved ones. Arguably, all this new technology helps us build stronger relationships, as talking between each other becomes must more of a part of our daily lives, and we are able to keep each other up to date with exactly what we are doing right up to what we are having for breakfast (a compulsory Instagram shot, best completed with the hashtag #instafoodporn). In fact, the use of technology potentially shifts the focus in our relationships on the verbal rather than the physical, since it provides many more opportunities just to talk, rather than always DOING something together (I mean anything from just eating dinner to watching a movie, to clear that up for the more dirty-minded amongst you.)
Nonetheless, perhaps there is a reason why Shakespeare never wrote his sonnets in binary, and maybe these super-intimate cyber relationships are clogging up too much of our disk space. Communicating every day takes up time, and creates an expectancy which leaves us feeling empty and curious whenever contact is broken, not to mention a huge gap in our daily lives if the relationship disintegrates. Furthermore, it potentially shifts our focus away from our own lives onto someone else’s, since not only are we always preoccupied about what our other half is doing, the concept of always having to have something to tell them about is likely to influence our daily decision making. It goes without saying that the more we know about someone else’s life, the more we will find to quarrel about – and as the exciting stories drain away and subject matter becomes scarce, we are fertilising the perfect ground for a harvest of petty arguments. This constant communication leaves us living in each other’s pockets – and of course we are not wanted there, otherwise where would we put our smartphones?
This is not to mention the privacy issue, which unfortunately goes deeper than your settings on Facebook. Only in the 21st century have we added yet another complication to our relationships – should you read your partner’s texts or emails? Marie Claire, the independant, and thestudentroom all have their views on this commonplace tenchoglitch. Whilst Facebook Chat provides the perfect ground for flirting with your co-worker before you get their number, and a girl’s name in your contact list sets alarm bells ringing for any anxious girlfriends, the technological revolution arguably piles the pressure on our relationships, by feeding our insecurities and paranoia on empty calories.
Hitting “CRTL -” and zooming out now, we have to consider the full screen view of technology not only within our relationship, but surrounding it. Hard to get becomes even harder to play when we are constantly contactable via social media, and the 2 day rule for calling after a date dissolves into the two-second-after-we-said-bye Whatsapp rule. Constant availability doesn’t stop there, as private time becomes strained when our eyes are always scanning our email inboxes, and excitement often comes from our Facebook news feed rather than what is actually going on around us. Consequentially, whilst we all know to hit ‘safely remove hardware’ before disconnecting a USB, disconnecting completely from the world around us becomes almost impossible when it’s so easy to keep up to date with what everyone else is doing, make unfair comparisons and get a tad jealous of everyone who seems to be having a whole lot more fun than you right now (don’t worry – they’re actually just sat in front of their laptop too, uploading the photos for you to stalk.) With all this on your mind at once, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to shut down, explaining the lack-lustre of your love life when your mobile phone is the only one who’s turned on in the bedroom.
To decode all these thoughts and process them into something legible, we can summarise that amongst its many obvious advantages, the various problems that social media scatters into our relationships translate into one main love-hacking virus – anti-opportunism. Whilst technology offers us such a vast array of information about the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of what is going on around us, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel content with where we are, what we know, and what we are doing there and then. Having so much information to take in, whether it be about our partner or somebody else, only complicates our relationships, making it harder to feel satisfied with ourselves and thus more difficult to keep them healthy. So, make the transition from standby to off every so often, reduce your virtual footprint, and decrease the pollution into your love life.