Although online dating sites have been around for about 20 years, until the popularity of smart phones and mobile dating apps, they really were not accepted as a mainstream way of meeting. The iPhone has only been out since 2007, but has dramatically changed the way people communicate with each other.
As one who studies the marriage of love and technology, with texting, tweeting, Facebook Instant Messenger, and chat features on Internet dating sites, all of the rules of changed and a new form of dating, called social dating has emerged. From swiping right or left on Tinder to flirting with an old college pal on Facebook, the ability to be digitally connected to boost your ego or dopamine levels has never been easier.
On the positive side, I like to think about the couples who've found love on Facebook, or those who have met offline and have fallen in love with the help of iMessage or SMS texts while using flirty text messages as digital foreplay, have benefited many a relationship.
With all of the tools at our digital fingertips, singles should be falling in love with the help of technology in record numbers, but is that always the case?
In my book, The Perils of Cyber-Dating, I talked about the serial dater, the commitment-phobe who used technology to boost his ego, while telling seven women at the same time how much he loved them. His addiction to technology prevented him from having a meaningful relationship, as he spent over five hours a day carefully crafting text messages and emails with the goal of making each woman the only one.
Meanwhile on one side of town, he was proposing marriage to a woman, who in her heart knew that something was very wrong. A woman's intuition is quite powerful. Typically once a woman suspects there's a problem in the relationship or another woman is sharing time with her guy, it's already happened. When she saw his iPhone's text messages to other women scheduling romantic vacations, he was busted. One-by-one she contacted the women via text or on Facebook to do her digital due diligence, hoping she was wrong. She ended their relationship once the pieces of the puzzle were put together, completely heartbroken and felt very duped.
It turns out that her almost-fiancé was addicted to technology to woo as many women as possible. Every Friday, he'd text a half-dozen women to see what they were up to that night and the first one who replied he'd schedule a date with to hookup. It was that easy for him, but for the girls, they were just in rotation. He promised marriage and monogamy and slept with his iPhone in bed with him waiting for the responses from women.
I'm here to tell you that flirting via text messages is addictive. Since you don't hear the sound of someone's voice, often the texts are taken out of context. If texting and tweeting weren't huge disrupters of relationships, situations like the Anthony Weiner scandal wouldn't have happened.
Flirting via text messages can bring you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Getting that happy face good morning text can make your day. Having someone ignore your messages can change the moods of many.
A technology study conducted by online dating sites JDate and Christian Mingle of 1500 smartphone users aged 21-50 who were dating, looked at the expectations that singles have on the response times of text messages. In this study, 50% said they believe anything over four hours is an inappropriate response time to a text to someone they're dating or are interested in dating (25% believed 1 hour was appropriate and 25% believed 1-4 hours was appropriate).
I've gone on record saying the cell phone has replaced the teddy bear to keep singles warm at night. No longer for emergency purposes, the cell phone now plays a key role in dating and relationships, 24 hours a day. I do believe that singles are suffering from an unofficial condition called "mobile dating anxiety disorder" or MDAD, with 44% of singles surveyed checking their mobile phones for emails, texts and voicemail messages before taking a shower.
Some say that flirting via text messages or on social media when you're either in a committed relationship or are married is considered emotional cheating. I take the viewpoint that if the person you're communicating with does not know about your relationship status with your significant other, there is merit to this.
Texting, tweeting, and other digital communications have replaced flirting by the water cooler and the occasional glance of someone attractive from across a crowded room. While looking and flirting with someone of the opposite sex is considered normal behavior, where do we draw the line between having your ego boosted when you hear the customized chime from the object of your affection on your mobile phone, to sneaking in the bathroom to read your text messages so your partner doesn't know you have a digital crush?
My message to you is, if your online and digital behavior are ones in which you think your partner would be uncomfortable with, don't push the send button. Remember that anything digital can be shared, forwarded, or a screen shot can be taken. Assume that if you don't want your parents, children, boss, or significant other to read your digital communications, then stop the insanity now.
You might recall Spreadsheet Guy, the Wall Street financial guy who documented of all of the women he met online. He ranked them and made comments about each woman. A few were complimentary, but most were insulting. Spreadsheet Guy made the mistake of emailing his spreadsheet to one of his dates and with the flick of her keyboard, she got her revenge. His personal critiques of women went viral. It was a creepy at best.
Have social media and cell phones helped or hurt your relationships?
Julie Spira is America's Top Online Dating Expert and Digital Matchmaker. She was an early adopter of Internet dating, having created her first profile 20 years ago. Julie's the founder of CyberDatingExpert.com and the author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Digital Manners. Follow @JulieSpira on Twitter and at Facebook.com/CyberDatingExpert.