New review looks at how technology has changed dating and relationships

Despite the meme (and film) saying otherwise, many Filipinos are still in search of the one who will be their “forever”—the soulmate they can spend the rest of their lives with. In this quest, an increasing number are turning to technology and online dating apps such as Tinder.

Beyond just providing another method for people to meet each other, online dating and the concept of “cyberintimacy” have significantly impacted the way we form, maintain and even end romantic relationships.

A new review published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking has attempted to explore exactly how cyberintimacy has changed how people approach relationships.

“As our knowledge of human-computer interactions mature, future research could explore the potential of behavior-change interventions specifically designed to enhance cyberintimacy,” wrote co-authors Ian Kwok and Annie Wescott, both from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

According to the authors, connecting online is now the third most likely way that people meet potential partners. In addition, more than one-third of all marriages are the result of connecting online.

Despite this, social scientists are only just beginning to understand how cyberintimacy is impacting romantic relationships.

To help address this gap in knowledge, Kwok and Wescott poured through a selection of studies to try to collate all the data that has been gathered so far on online dating.

Based on the review, the authors found that cyberintimacy has a profound effect on the entire relationship lifecycle—starting from its initiation, all the way to whether it ends in marriage or a breakup.

One of the most prominent features of online dating is the sheer availability of romantic partners. Dating apps such as Tinder, Match and Grindr make the mutual selection process as effortless as possible.

The plethora of options, however, does not mean that people are making better decisions. In fact, one of the studies they reviewed demonstrated that the act of searching through dating choices increases a user’s cognitive load. This means that more poor dating choices are being made.

The transition from online interactions to actually meeting in person has also been subject to scrutiny. Studies seem to indicate that presenting a more “true-to-life” online profile while also responding more swiftly can increase the likelihood of an in-person meeting. (Read: What makes a relationship work? Scientists quiz an AI engine—here’s what they found)

Technology and hyperconnectivity also have an effect on once people actually go beyond the initial meeting and into an actual relationship. Specifically, they can become problematic if they’re not controlled.

Studies have shown that more than one-third of those already in romantic relationships are guilty of sending texts or e-mails to others while in conversation with their partners.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that individuals are engaging in more creative and cunning ways to monitor the online activities of their partners. In addition, one study found that more time spent on Facebook is associated with increased jealousy among romantic couples.

When things eventually go south, technology still ends up complicating matters as well. Throughout the course of a relationship, couples accumulate a store of digital assets—photographs, videos, texts and even passwords—documenting the highs and lows of the relationship.

These complicate things when a relationship is terminated—photos need to be untagged, ex’s unfriended and more. This process can become more complicated when exes start blocking one another or change relationship statuses.

Beyond these, the review also covers other topics such as cyberstalking and cybersex. As comprehensive as it tries to be, however, the authors admitted that there did face some limitations.

The review mostly gives a bird’s eye view of the research that has been done on cyberintimacy. Because of this, it’s unable to delve deeper into some of the topics covered in the studies reviewed. With this in mind, the authors hope that the review serves as a starting point for future research on cyberintimacy.

Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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