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Spreading the #love: How technology is changing the way we date and relate

Love communication becomes more social, less exclusive

​​Valentine’s Day has culturally and traditionally been a high-pressure day with expectations for those alone to find and be in a relationship and for those in a relationship to write the perfect message of love.

According to Alysa Lucas, assistant professor of communication in Central Michigan University’s College of Communication and Fine Arts, technology has increased this pressure.

“People can create a Pinterest board with ideas about how to make the day great and communicate feelings and reinforce commitments to one another in a public forum — through tweets, posting a Facebook status or sharing a picture of a love note, candy or flowers on Instagram,” Lucas said.

The pressure of a day like Valentine’s Day ignores the fact that communicating love and commitment is part of maintaining a relationship and that such maintenance should occur more frequently than on holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

“If we’ve made a connection with someone and we’re happy with the relationship, we want to maintain it,” Lucas said. “Maintenance is like a job — it’s work. Technology provides a number of ways to maintain relationships but if we only use it one day or a few times a year, it’s like watering a plant only once a year. The plant will die and similarly the relationship will not remain in good standing.”

Finding a date was more of a natural process before the Internet became intertwined into the fabric of everyday life. Whether being introduced to someone through a friend, meeting a person at work or simply striking up a conversation with an individual who seemed interesting, potential partners were screened face to face.

“Technology has changed the face of relationships,” Lucas said. “Instead of meeting people in a restaurant, we use dating apps such as Tinder, email an e-card instead of mailing a paper card and give each other heart candies that say ‘Text Me’ instead of ‘Call Me.’ We used to ask others if they were our boyfriend or girlfriend, but now we ask if we can be ‘Facebook official.’”

According to Lucas, people now communicate differently because there are more diverse venues and additional expectations about communication.

“Wishing someone a happy Valentine’s Day via text on a smartphone or in 140 characters or less on Twitter may not seem romantic, but it depends on the relationship,” she said. “Some people may appreciate such notes from a partner, whereas others may expect something more special to celebrate the holiday.”

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