One of the tragedies of the romantic relationships in the 21st century is the lack of quality and the lack of depth. Technology has played a pivotal role in bringing people closer together and also keeping people from connecting at deeper levels. We’ve seen the rise of Internet dating as means for people to find suitable partners to become friends, go on dates and to eventually get married. This has been further enhanced by adult dating websites, which allow people to skip courtship and go straight to sex.
We’ve also seen the erosion of boundaries between couples. Cellphones have placed people at the beck and call of their mates. And so you find many people who would otherwise have developed a very strong individualised personality within the relationship breaking down when they cannot get hold of their partner. A pastor from a church once cautioned me about the devastating impact cellphones and MXit was having on young married couples. What he found was that as teenagers, they develop their online friendships, sometimes having hundreds of “friends” on social networks. And when they get married, they want to maintain those friendships. Now here arises a real conflict because the husband or wife may have their own “friends” they are used to communicating with. This eventually leads to a severe breakdown in communication, a lack of trust, and is the opposite of what these people should ideally have at the beginning of a marriage.
Now it’s a fact that we do not live in a perfect world. And in the same way that technology is abused, its also having a very positive impact. Technology like Skype, the most popular VOIP application on the Internet, has allowed people to connect and even do video calls anywhere in the world. Social networking has had the same positive impact in that it has allowed people to maintain friendships and even develop romantic relationships over long distances. And I firmly believe we’ve now reached the stage where people are more realistic about the people they meet on the Internet.
The greatest challenge for 21st century relationships is moving from addiction-based technology1 relationships to real connections, real intimacy. And I’ll explore this more in my upcoming book, The Psychology of Technology.