Discussing the current dating scene with people in their twenties and thirties, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the pre-millennium analogue world we vaguely remember through nostalgic BuzzFeed lists was our last chance at experiencing genuine old world romance.
The early days of dating are no longer excited dashes home to check the answering machine, followed by a strategic wait before returning a call in the most casual of tones. Instead we spend our time manically refreshing WhatsApp, we go into dates knowing everything Google can tell us about someone, and the meeting of gazes across the room as a springboard for love at first sight is more likely to come in the form of a mutual swiping to the right.
But no matter how obviously convenient it is, there is a stigma attached to telling people you met your partner online. People tend to associate dating apps with sex, and there seems to be a perception that people who use them are more likely to be promiscuous and ultimately a less loyal or faithful partner.
We think that’s nonsense. As we’ve seen before, technology does affect our relationships, but not in the ways people expect.
Tinder isn’t just for hookups
Amy Black, 26, is a PR director based in Belfast. She met her boyfriend on Tinder a year ago and they’re planning to move in together in the new year.
“Ironically, I don’t really like dating multiple people at the same time, and if you meet someone in a more traditional way, they can come up to you in a bar and ask you out and you have no way of knowing who else they’re seeing,” she said. “The fact that we met on Tinder meant that we immediately had that conversation. There was no confusion or deception – we knew when we were dating other people and we knew when we weren’t.”
As of April 2015 one in five 25-34-year-olds have used online dating, yet commonly cited figures suggest that around 55% of men and 50% of women are likely to cheat at some point in their marriages. As sex columnist Dan Savage is fond of reminding us, these people are not all married to each other, meaning that almost every relationship will be touched by infidelity – regardless of whether they met on Tinder or in a more “socially acceptable” setting.
When Ashley Madison, the notorious hook-up site for married spouses looking to cheat, had its data leaked earlier this year, it shone a new light on the way we view extramarital online interactions. The high percentage of male signups (and subsequent revelation that of the small number of women, many were bots) led the media to feed us the flawed rhetoric not only that men are cheating pigs and women are faithful and virtuous, but also that technology is leading to the demise of relationships all over the Western world.
In reality what it showed is that many people who might sign up to Ashley Madison, secretly look at pictures of an ex on Facebook, or use one of myriad messaging apps to keep some overly flirtatious conversations with a coworker under wraps are never actually intending to do anything about it. If people looking for a bit of harmless stimulation can do so from the comfort of their own home, without the temptation of actually going home with the object of their affections, this has surely saved countless relationships from the catastrophic consequences caused by a Don Draper-esque, non-digital approach to scratching the itch.
RTs aren’t the only kind of engagement on Twitter
Lindsay Keates is 36 and works in marketing, and she agrees that people are quick to assume that relationships which began online and continue to embrace technology are often seen as less romantic.
She and her boyfriend began talking on Twitter two years ago, and when he asked for suggestions for something to paint, she had no idea it would turn into one of the most romantic experiences she’d ever had. “I’d just been watching a YouTube video of Tom Hiddleston and the Muppets and I said he should paint the Cookie Monster. A couple of hours later he’d sent me this amazing painting,” she recalled.
They quickly progressed to direct messaging and texting, and on new year’s eve 2013 he admitted he wished he could be there to kiss Lindsay at midnight. They met on the 31st of January. “I was so nervous to meet him and actually speak in person for the first time, but I knew I was in love with him even before we said a word.”
A year later they moved in together, and they’re now planning their wedding. And as for how technology has incorporated into her relationship, she couldn’t be happier. “The thing is, we’re in this perfect place where we just love spending time together. We’re basically inseparable and it’s all thanks to Twitter. People are crazy to blame social media for break-ups, if someone’s going to cheat, they just will. Like they always have.”
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Main image: iStock/franckreporter