It's almost impossible to imagine a world where we're not permanently attached to our smartphones, laptops and tablets, where WiFi is available almost everywhere and you can find the nearest restaurant, bank or happy hour with just a click of a button. Technology has created a world where we're more connected to our devices and people across the world than ever before. But how are these things impacting the way we date, love and have sex?
We're not the first ones to tackle this issue -- pieces about how smartphones are ruining love, porn is ruining erections and online dating is ruining romance abound on the internet. Yes, there are downsides to technology invading our personal lives, and it's important to think about our potentially damaging habits. But it's not all terrible news. Courtship probably isn't "dead," and a little change to the romantic status quo might even be a good thing.
Here are six ways technology is probably hurting our love lives:
1. Stalking your current partner's ex has never been so easy. A few clicks on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn means you can find out almost everything about the person who came before you -- which, of course, can breed bitter jealousy. Comparing yourself to the person who came before, whether it's how they look in a bikini or their multiple master's degrees, won't serve you at all. In Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker's piece on why she couldn't stop cyberstalking her ex-boyfriend's new squeeze, she wrote: "Stalking her was a form of torturing myself for ending a relationship that I wasn't sure I was ready to leave behind." Sound familiar?
2. Not to mention stalking your own ex. It's hard to get over someone when their photos are constantly popping up in your Instagram feed or Foursquare informs you they're dining at the special restaurant you used to frequent together. "Remove yourself from Facebook and similar sites entirely if you know staying away from your ex is going to be really tough for you," advised relationship coach Dr. Judith Tutin in a January 2013 post for YourTango.com. "You know that if you want to feel better and move on with your life, surveilling your ex is not the way to go."
3. We think we know more about someone than we actually do. Googling someone before going on a date with them is increasingly standard practice, which definitely makes sense for safety purposes. But judging someone based on what search results show could really just be harming our chances of meeting someone great. A February 2013 Match.com poll even found that 38 percent of women would cancel a first date based on something they found out about a person online. "We start to assume that someone's digital life is who they are," Dr. Logan Levkoff, a sexologist and relationship expert, told HuffPost. "We don't always give someone a real fighting chance based on what we know about them online."
4. It's harder than ever to keep your private life private, and what you choose to share or not share on the Internet can be a source of relationship tension. Perhaps one of you wants to upload cute couple pictures, but the other isn't comfortable sharing their private life online. According to Dr. Levkoff, "We have forgotten what it means to have an intimate relationship with someone where we don't put everything out there for the world to see. Our relationships should be for us, not to be defined by the rest of the world."
5. Porn is probably influencing people's expectations in the bedroom. The porn sex vs. real sex debate is still going on -- as well as claims that there is no such thing as "real sex" anyway -- but the fact remains that whatever porn people are consuming online is going to affect how they think and feel about the sex they are having with their partner. In a January 2011 piece for New York magazine, Davy Rothbart summed up an issue that many heterosexual couples are facing:
A conundrum emerges. Men, oversaturated by porn, secretly hunger for the variety that porn offers. Women, noticing a decline in their partners’ libidos, try to reenact the kinds of scenes that men watch on their computer screens. Men, as a result, get really freaked out.
6. Having your eyes glued to your phone means you're probably missing out on social interactions because no one can make eye contact with you. Whether you're texting while standing alone at a bar or party or checking your email during dinner, having your phone at hand means you're not giving your full attention to the people around you. Ian Kerner, a sex and relationship expert and best-selling author of She Comes First, told the Huffington Post: "Smartphones make it harder to focus on the person you're on a date with and have a genuine one-to-one experience." We'd also like to add that texting during a date is rude.
And here are four ways ways technology is helping our love lives:
1. Long-distance relationships are less stressful to maintain.
Living far away from your partner sucks, but imagine how much more it sucked before FaceTime, Skype, texting and emails. Dr. Levkoff, believes that technology is a livesaver in these situations: "It's not a substitute for being with someone," she told the Huffington Post. "But you really get a chance to feel like someone's there."
2. It's easier than ever to meet someone online. Kerner told the Huffington Post: "You have to go on about ten first dates in order to actually find someone that you'd like to have a second date with, so online dating certainly makes it easier to play the numbers." Today, dating sites are so specific you can whittle down your choices according to your lifestyle. Gluten-free? Super quirky? Really into zombies? The Internet giveth.
3. Figuring out dates is so much less of a hassle. From scheduling quality time together on Google Calendar to looking up fun new ideas on HowAboutWe, the Internet has really only improved things when it comes to dates. Especially now that you can find a vegetarian Italian restaurant downtown with a full bar and a quiet ambiance in under two minutes using Yelp.
4. Gender "rules" don't apply as much any more. "Traditional" who-should-woo-whom protocol doesn't apply in the brave new world of online dating sites and mobile matching apps, which means that women feel more empowered to make the first move. Furthermore, both parties can worry less about rejection, and newer dating apps like Tinder make it easier for women to avoid unwanted advances. "The fact that the only people who can message you [on Tinder] are people you want to get messages from is especially appealing," wrote Jezebel's Katie Dries in July.
How is technology helping or hurting your love life? Send your age, location and 1-2 paragraph story to firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the conversation on Twitter @HuffPostWomen.