Just a few years ago, we would have asked friends if they knew anyone who might be a great and lovely match. There was no getting around those initial awkward phone calls, and if you wanted to know something about an individual, you’d have to ask them.
Now, all of that is taken care of with WhatsApp, Google or Tinder.
The reality, though, is that technology’s impact on our individual and romantic relationships is as positive or negative as we allow it to be. Consider, for example, that you already carry a load of subjective biases that influence your perception of prospective mates, based on previously stored information concerning previous pains or pleasures.
Don’t believe me? Imagine that you meet three potential dates: one brunette, one redhead and one blonde. You immediately turn down the blonde because all the blonde people you’ve previously met have been high maintenance, and the redhead isn’t for you either, because the other redheaded people you know are prone to flights of temper.
In contrast, the brunette seems perfect, because your previous relationships with brunettes have been great. Do you see how you’ve tainted your perception of these people with old baggage, using it to make assumptions about their characters?
Now, add in the results of a Google search, and that perception can become even more distorted. After all, we’re unlikely to get the full picture of a whole individual from their online profile; most people are careful to post only the highlights package.
That’s not to say that social media has no place in the dating game. It can be a useful tool in helping you uncover information, especially if you’re upfront and address the individual directly on their channel. In this case, it’s a light-hearted platform perfect for getting those "getting to know you" questions out of the way.
It can also help you pre-screen potential dates, helping to break a fantasy that would otherwise remain in place until time revealed all their nasty habits. That can save you a lot of aggravation. And, of course, it can provide some pointers in terms of the individual’s interests and hobbies, which makes conversation a lot easier.
The downside, however, is that the information many individuals feed their platforms is seldom neutral. It’s crafted in a way that unavoidably makes them more attractive – and, without real-life cues to provide balance, it’s hard to rely on either your instincts from previous wounds or your intuition when it comes to deciding whether this individual might be a great and potentially fulfilling match for you.
For instance, you can’t smell a person’s pheromones – the chemicals that play a key role in attraction – over Skype; nor can you read body language or micro-expressions from a WhatsApp message.
Many of the senses we call upon to help us form an accurate impression of someone are negated by online communication, especially the most important of all: the visual. After all, physical appearance is still the key and most often the initial factor in determining our attraction to someone.
The ultimate conclusion? Technology may provide some assistance in helping you find a mate, especially if you’re not worried about geographical borders. But face-to-face interaction remains the most effective way to determine if an attraction is rooted in something real. As in any sphere of life, it’s impossible to label technology’s impact on our relationships as "good" or "bad", because everything has two sides.
Use it wisely, and it will work to your advantage.