Digital Dating: The Influence of Technology on Romance

 

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

In the past few decades, we have been inundated with advancements in technology and tools used for communication. For example, Twitter®, Facebook®, YouTube®, and Snapchat® are just a few of the many computer-mediated tools that have been developed recently to assist our interactions with others. Despite the growth in technology making us more interconnected than ever, many people have started to wonder if this computer-mediated connectivity comes at a cost (particularly for romantic relationships).

To investigate the outcomes associated with the use of technology for communication in romantic relationships, Dr. Andrea Boyle and Dr.  Lucia O’Sullivan conducted a study surveying 359 young adults about their participation in computer-mediated and face-to-face communication with their romantic partner (2016). Their results indicated that the time spent communicating with their partner through computer-mediated tools was less than the time spent communicating face-to-face. This is good news because many studies have supported the benefits of interacting face-to-face in comparison to interactions occurring over computers/smartphones (e.g., voice inflation, physical contact, body language; Attrill & Jalil, 2011; Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003; Ramirez Jr. & Broneck, 2009).

Image result for smartphone love

Despite the greater proportion of time spent communicating face-to-face, the results of Boyle and O’Sullivan’s study (2016) also revealed that computer-mediated communication also had value in romantic relationships. In particular, those who shared a wider range of topics about themselves through digital technologies reported greater intimacy and higher relationship quality as compared to those who disclosed fewer things or negative things.

In sum, although face-to-face communication has many benefits, it appears as though there is also a place for computer-mediated communication in romantic relationships. In particular, if looking to share positive and beneficial messages with a partner, communication via technology seems to be a great avenue. However, when serious conversations need to take place or when hoping to get serious with a partner during times of distress, perhaps face-to-face interactions are ideal.

References

Attrill, A., & Jalil, R. (2011). Revealing only the superficial me: Exploring categorical self-disclosure online. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 1634-1642.

Boyle, A., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2016).  Staying connected: Technology use, computer-mediated communication and relationship outcomes among college students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19, 299-307.

Mallen, M. J., Day, S. X., & Green, M. A. (2003). Online versus face-to-face conversation: An examination of relational and discourse variables. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40, 155-163.

Ramirez Jr, A., & Broneck, K. (2009). IM me’: Instant messaging as relational maintenance and everyday communication. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 291-314.

 

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Are Men Really From Mars?

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

It has been ingrained in us since birth that men look for sex and find love and women look for love and find sex. For example, take every romantic comedy/romance novel ever written, women are often portrayed as the romantic saps whereas men are testosterone-filled and often sexually motivated. Research on attitudes toward sexuality and relationships supports this idea. For example, studies suggest that men report a stronger desire for casual sex, more permissive attitudes toward sexuality, and more sexually-oriented expectations for relationships as compared to women (Clark & Hatfield, 1989; Petersen & Hyde, 2010; Schmitt, Couden, & Baker, 2001).

Despite these well-supported gender differences, most of the research has relied on self-report surveys, which measure explicit attitudes/preferences. These explicit measures are not very reliable because people can easily fake or enhance their responses to make themselves look better. One way to get around some of these concerns is to assess implicit attitudes. Implicit attitudes are attitudes that exist just below awareness. They are the attitudes that people hold that they are not necessarily aware of. Thus, because these attitudes are subconscious, people are unable to fake or distort their responses.

The most common way to capture these implicit attitudes is to use a computer test called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). In a study of mine conducted at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), myself and a colleague did just that. In particular, we were able to use the IAT to assess people implicit attitudes toward sex and romance (Thompson & O’Sullivan, 2012). By showing 182 UNB students, 68 men and 114 women, images of couples engaged in various sexual activities as well as images associated with romance, the IAT revealed that BOTH men and women displayed an implicit preference for romance as compared to sex. This indicates that men AND women preferred images portraying romance over those portraying sex.

Image result for gender differences love

Although these results may come as quite a shock, it is not completely unheard of in academia. In fact, some studies have indicated that men may be just as romantic as women if not MORE. Specifically, the latest findings by psychologist Marissa Harrison (2011), from Pennsylvania State University in the US, determined that men fall in love quicker and take longer to fall out of love when compared to women. In fact, it was found that men were three times more likely to declare their love before women when involved in a heterosexual relationship.

So, as it pertains to BOTH men and women, it appears as though Robert Frost was on to something: “Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

References:

Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 2, 39-55.

Harrison, M. A., & Shortall, J. C. (2011). Women and men in love: who really feels it and says it first?. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151, 727-736.

Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality, 1993–2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 21–38.

Schmitt, D. P., Couden, A., & Baker, M. (2001). The effects of sex and temporal context on feelings of romantic desire: An experimental evaluation of sexual strategies theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 833-847.

Thompson, A. E., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2012). Gender differences in associations of sexual and romantic stimuli: do young men really prefer sex over romance?. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 949-957.