developing relationships online – topic interest

I remember the day I told my mum that me and my boyfriend were officially dating she laughed. She asked me “Why does he have to ask you to be his girlfriend for it to be official? You’ve been seeing each other for months.” I also remember her refusing to accept it was our one-year anniversary because she believes it was months ago. This got me thinking about how much dating and relationships have changed over the generations. Mum and Dad never had a moment where they asked each other to be boyfriend/ girlfriend, and they originally met in person.

My experience of meeting and getting to know my partner was completely different to this. We originally had a super brief encounter out one night because of mutual friends, which I thought nothing of and we went our separate ways. About two months later he added me on Facebook and when I accepted, he messaged me asking to add me on Snapchat. Still, I didn’t think much of this, as most of the connections I have exclusively on Snapchat fizzle out fairly fast. However, this was different. We snapchatted daily for about six months, and gradually moved on to messaging, we got to know each other by showing small parts of our everyday lives. But still, the thought of meeting him in person made me so nervous and unsure. Eventually, we both attended a mutual friend’s party and we were inseparable the entire night, he seemed, in a way, different in person, and some of the mannerisms through text that I couldn’t really make sense of were clearer to me now. Since that night, we saw each other as much as possible, and a few months later, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

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Snapchat contains features that inform you on how many executive days you have snapchatted and what friendship rank you share with someone. This can be reflective of how heavily we use these platforms.

Thanks to social media, the story I just described is becoming the norm of developing relationships. The development of technology is separating as from physical connection, as seen in other media forms. For example, the move from communal TV watching to buying multiple TV’s or the use of streaming sites such as Netflix was the shift that turned TV from a social activity to an interest based one as “the increasing diversity of channels (is) resulting in greater fragmentation of the audience.” (Livingstone 2009).  These streaming services have also caused a decrease in the use of public social media spaces, such as cinemas, as the availability of watching movies in the comfort of your own home thanks to internet streaming has admittedly resulted in less trips to the cinemas. (Plaugic 2018) Being a part of this digitally networked world has caused us to form a constant attachment to our phones, Hermann Bausinger explained that this technology can be “distinguished by the fact that they rapidly take on the character of artificial limbs” (1984) Because of this, we compromise meaningful interactions for the convenience of our phones, or what Sherry Turkle explains as “We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together.”(2012) What I’m fascinated in is not where me and my partner have ended up, but how we got here. The way that online communication has changed the way we get to know someone opens up many questions. To me it’s a risk vs reward situation, and I’m interested to hear the experiences of other people who have met their partners online to learn how the lack of physical presence changed how they got to know the person, in comparison to people who met in-person. I also want to explore issues that can occur through digital communication including risk of catfishing, ghosting or being replaced in online relationships. Additionally, observing how the nature of displaying relationship status on social media has formed, from trends such as one putting their significant others initials in their instagram bio, updating their profile on Facebook and posting content about relationship milestones including anniversaries and breakups, and what the intentions behind these actions are.

References

Bausinger, H 1984, ‘Media, Technology and Daily Life’ in Media, Culture and Society p.343-351

Livingstone, S 2009 ‘Half a century of television in the lives of our children.’ The ANNALS of the American academy of political and social science pp. 151-163

Plaugic, L 2018 ‘Domestic movie theatre attendance hit a 25-year low in 2017’ The Verge https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/3/16844662/movie-theater-attendance-2017-low-netflix-streaming

Turkle, S 2012, ‘Connected, but alone?’ in TED2012 delivered February 2012  https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

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