Millennials – and, increasingly, people of all ages – are getting used to dating online. The first group of people who won’t remember a time before friendships were born, nurtured and often even ended on social media are now pre-teens. The reality of our world is that all relationships, both romantic and platonic, are now heavily influenced by internet tools, whether that is where they’re begun, or how they’re maintained.
While in-person interactions are still incredibly important to relationships (and we hope they always will be), it’s important to recognize just how much social media and dating apps are changing how we care for those we love – and even who we direct that affection to.
We’re All Private Investigators
Most of us know how it goes on dating apps – you notice each other and send whatever notification needed, from a like to a swipe. Someone starts the conversation. If it goes well and you both seem compatible, you agree to meet up.
Oh wait, I missed a step between it going well, and agreeing to meet up: the investigation. We used to deny that we did it, but that stopped a few years ago. Before you agree to meet up with anyone from an app, it’s hard to resist looking them up – on everything. Before you go on that first date, you already know where they work, where they have worked, what they look like, what some of their previous lovers looked like (if you’re lucky and they don’t understand privacy settings), and maybe even what they ate for lunch the day before. Without even realizing it, we’ve made it much, much harder for that first date to succeed.
If you spend an evening researching a person, it’s very easy to find dirt about them. It’s also easy to get your hopes up. However, on the other hand, it’s much easier to avoid people who are obviously incompatible, or even dangerous.
It’s easy to argue either way for whether or not researching a date before you meet up with them for the first time is a good thing, but there’s one thing that cannot be denied: first dates are not only harder to get, but they have a lower chance of succeeding than they used to.
Promise Me, No More Secrets
The investigations don’t stop once we’ve entered into a relationship, even if we don’t mean to be nosy or pry. With an increasing number of businesses rewarding those who check in while they’re physically on premise, social media sites like Swarm and Facebook are making it difficult to hide where you are, when you’re currently there.
While the exact time that you get your mid-morning coffee isn’t particularly of interest to anyone except the business you buy it from, having that sort of a beat on someone else’s life means a few things. Firstly, it’s easier to recognize a pattern being broken than it is to spot a pattern in the first place – which means keeping secrets, like losing your job or going home for the night, are a bit harder to keep if you check in from habit.
The bigger change? We expect to have that level of transparency into the lives of those we care about, and find it unsettling when we don’t. Social media is having the same effect on love as Uber and Amazon Prime are having on business: a need for immediate gratification. So ask yourself: would you date someone who doesn’t use social media?
Social media, dating apps and the internet in general are not ruining dating – they’re changing it. We have an overabundance of information, but we can do with it what we will. Use social media to keep yourself and your friend safe, and to get to know your partner better, but don’t use it as a crutch instead of learning how to communicate – or giving people a chance. What they choose to put on the internet says a lot about them, but it’s far from the whole story.