Healthy Relationships in the Digital Age

Over the past 20 years, technological advances and social media have modified the way people interact with one another. Humans have only been carrying mobile phones for 40 years and using social media for 20, but it’s clear that these mediums have made a huge impact on the way relationships are formed, sustained, and finished. Text messages, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, and Tinder are just a few of the diverse media platforms people now use to communicate. The ability to be constantly connected can be a blessing, or a curse, for a number of reasons.

Many relationships begin and thrive because of advancements like the web and mobile devices. According to a study conducted at the University of Florida, around 35 percent of people who married between 2005 and 2012 began their relationship through an online source. This study included those who met through dating websites as well as social networking. It also showed that those who had met online had a slightly lower divorce rate than those who had met offline. Social media and other technological advances offer channels of communication for those in long distance relationships.

However, social media has also gained a negative reputation for Millennial romantic relationships. According to the study “CyberPsychology and Behavior” conducted at the Canadian University of Guelph, social media may be responsible for causing distrust and envy among those forming or involved in romantic relationships.

Ball Bearings sat down with four individuals to discuss how technology has blurred the lines of what it means to be in a healthy relationship: author and licensed therapist Jay Alevizon, communications professor Mary Moore, Millennial college student Donnie Dinehart, and college graduate Naomi Davis.

Ball Bearings: How do you define a “healthy relationship”?
Alevizon: Let’s say it must be a rewarding relationship for both people. That reciprocally, they’re both stronger for having the relationship. Having the relationship makes both stronger and fun.
Moore: I think trust is really important, as well as openness and honesty. Different people look for different things in relationships and those things need to be made clear by both involved. As long as both parties feel safe and secure, I think it’s a healthy relationship.
Dinehart: Communication is big. You have to be able to talk about your problems with your partner instead of just dropping everything and running. Trust is the most important thing to keep in mind. I also think time away from your boyfriend or girlfriend can be good for you and your relationship.
Davis: I think a healthy relationship requires respect. I think it’s required not just toward each other, but also there needs to be a respect for yourself to make sure that the person you’re with isn’t treating you in an unhealthy way. A healthy relationship requires giving unconditional love, but I think you have to love yourself before you can love another person.

BB: How would you describe the modern young adult relationships in comparison to previous generations?
Alevizon: I don’t think human nature changes drastically. There’s a longer period of development in current culture. Who’s to say if it’s good or bad.
Moore: The medium that is used to communicate is what has changed the most. There is also clear evidence that this generation is invested in the “hookup culture,” but it doesn’t appear that this generation has as many sexual partners as they used to back in the ’80s. I think this is why the term “friends with benefits” has become so popular.
Dinehart: I don’t think people are in it for the long haul anymore. I think people just wanted to be affiliated with somebody. I’m sure previous generations interacted similarly to our generation, but I think you see a lot more divorces and breakups now.
Davis: There’s no courtship anymore. No one is asking, ‘May I take you out on a date?’ anymore. I also think past generations were forced to get to know people face-to-face. [Now] you can make snap judgments based on people’s social media and how they text. So I feel like people aren’t getting to know each other on the deeper levels.

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