While most of the conversation about technology and relationships focuses on online dating, a recent study by The Pew Research Center on Internet & American Life Project indicates that technology affects coupled individuals as well. According to the study of 2,252 adults in relationships (married, cohabiting or committed relationships), cell phone and internet technology provides a new means of communication for couples. The effects of technology, however, are not equally distributed across couples. For younger individuals between the ages of 18 to 29, technology appears to have a more pronounced effect. Technology for young adults appears to be both a friend and foe for their relationships.
Approximately 42 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 claim their significant other has been distracted by their cell phone when they are spending time together relative to 25 percent of all individuals making this claim. Young people are not just more distracted they also are more likely to have more conflict about online activities. Eighteen percent of young adults claim that they have argued with their partner about the time they spend online compared to 8 percent of all adults. Rates of conflict may be higher for young adults because of their relatively consumption rates and the nature of their partnerships. Presumably, young adults are more likely to be in cohabiting or committed relationships rather than marriages where behavioral norms are less defined. Moreover, these individuals' relationships have presumably not been as lengthy and not provided as much opportunity to negotiate a variety of conflicts.
At the same time, young adults find that technology can be helpful in their relationships through providing a forum to resolve conflicts. According to 23 percent of young adults, texting and online communication has helped to resolve conflicts relative to 9 percent of all individuals. Young adults also find that technology can be a force that fosters intimacy. Forty-one percent of young adults claim that technology has helped them to feel closer to their partner compared to 21 percent of all individuals surveyed. Young adults presumably have grown up revealing more about themselves in an online forum and may find the medium more comfortable to express their emotions than their older counterparts.
While couples must negotiate issues in many areas of their lives, young adults may need to be particularly attune to the effects of technology on their love lives. Food for thought this Valentine's Day season.