02/15/2013 10:45 am ET Updated Apr 17, 2013

Digitizing Love


It's no secret that navigating the treacherous terrain of modern day dating is becoming an increasingly strenuous task. Traditional courting has been almost completely replaced by texting, Instagram comments and disappearing Snapchats.

Once regarded as fodder for science fiction novels, the highly digitized 21st century dating world is here, and it's completely altering the dating process.

At this rate it will only be a matter of time before romantic escapades are solely conducted via technology. Just imagine a dystopian world where virtual kisses replace real ones and awkward romantic advances are merely an app away?

Havas Worldwide, an integrated marketing communications agency, recently released its 10th anniversary edition of its annual "Lust and Love" study that gives a broad overview of Internet trends when it comes to dating, love and relationships.

The study itself isn't too surprising; for example its claims that those who grew up in this current digital age are much more likely to engage in online relationships compared to those of older generations is hardly a shock. But the study revealed some startling results about the current generation themselves, especially when compared to the initial study a decade ago. All signs point to the fact that for Generation Y, a romantic online experience is becoming an increasingly viable option.

But are we becoming shallower as a result? Around half of the 1000 surveyed (47 percent) say that sex-related websites and digital tools are cheapening sex and harming people's relationships.

But even just a cursory glance at the statistics in the study reveals a major disparity. In 2003, 79 percent of the surveyed population believed that intelligence was the top "turn-on" but now only 40 percent think so. Conversely physical attributes that accounted for a mere 10 percent in 2003, has ballooned to 42 percent.

Could this be attributed to Rolodex-like, hyper-dating culture that Facebook, Twitter and other social sites provide? Why get to know someone when you can simply deduce whatever you need from his or her profile? Regardless it seems as though traditional courtship has other worries.

The dating spectrum seems to have evolved from a paradigm that ranged from a phone call to a full-fledged date, to a much more convoluted scale ranging from an Instagram "like" to a Facebook message. The now antediluvian phone call, once the basis for any relationship, is now the holy grail of courtship.

But though access to the opposite sex may be more readily available than ever before, the drawbacks are apparent as well, as depicted in a recent and highly publicized piece "The End of Courtship" by Alex Williams of the New York Times. The study inadvertently proves many of the theories purported In Williams' article. The same way technology has worked to make our regular day lives easier, it's doing the same in the dating world, though easier may not necessarily mean better.

The most interesting part of Web 2.0's role in the changing relationship paradigm is the sheer vastness of the options at play. From OkCupid, whose meteoric rise can be attributed to its conflagration of quirky quizzes and matching techniques, to the even more (or less) discreet Ashley, where husbands can start cheating on their wives with the click of a button.

Furthermore, technology has almost diluted the dating process into a simple transaction. The website Seeking Arrangement pins "Modern Gentlemen" with "Goal Seeking Sugar Babies" and if the literature alone wasn't enough to eviscerate the last remains of your hopeless romantic heart then the statistics will: According to the site, "the average "Sugar Daddy" makes an annual income of US$263,589, is worth about US$5.6 Million, and spends approximately US$4,357 a month on his sugar addiction."

As the lines between the online world and the real world become increasingly blurred some of the study's statistics confirm the changing times. It's no surprise that 69 percent of U.S. respondents believed that cheating online (even just engaging in suggestive or illicit conversation) constitutes cheating. In fact according to the study 30 percent actually know someone whose offline relationship was dealt a deathblow by their frivolous online escapades.

But before you go rummaging through your spouse's computer, it's important to note that despite increasing evidence to the contrary people still value face to face interaction above all, in fact due to its relative disappearance in the modern world it's even more coveted than before.

If that doesn't put a damper on your Valentine's Day spirit, just wait until blind dates are offered on Groupon and Living Social deals, 40 percent off a date with Jen, or 25 percent off with Haley?