Ah, young love. Many of us may remember the intensity and ecstasy of puppy love. But how have those relationships changed in an era of constant communication, oversharing and emoji? That's what a new study into teen dating, published Thursday by the Pew Research Center, explored in-depth.
The study takes a look at how social media and technology weave into every stage of the dating process, from flirting to breakup. There's a lot of digital flirting going on -- one boy said that his way of flirting is to put "a bunch of emojis" under a girl's photo. But asking someone out in person is still the most common way to start a relationship. Over three-quarters of teens said they've never dated someone they initially met online, though a quarter did admit they have dated (or hooked up) with people they met first online.
One thing is for certain: if Romeo and Juliet had carried out their romance today, they probably would have avoided their catastrophic communication breakdown. Thirty-eight percent of teens who date expect to hear from their partners at least once per day; 11 percent expect to hear from their partner every hour.
That doesn't mean, however, that teens necessarily like this constant communication. Sure, many teen daters have used online messages or texts to resolve arguments (48 percent) or just engage in conversations that makes them feel closer to each other (70 percent). But 43 percent have also found themselves in situations where they think their partner is distracted by their gadgets during their alone time.
The study also explored some questions of gender differences. Girls, for example, are much more likely to experience unwanted flirting, mirroring another Pew finding that women are more likely to be the victims of online harassment. Male and female teens, however, reported that there are definitely times when partners have crossed the line. Online tools can also exacerbate jealous tendencies, the study found, and 69 percent of teens reported that they think social media in particular gives too many people a window into their private lives.
Many teens told researchers that pressure to post about their relationships made them present a less authentic picture of their lives. Others said they stayed away from posting too much about their dating lives online because it leads to "drama"; one teen said it was because "more people ask questions and stuff like that."
Digital communication had its role to play at the end of relationships as well, researchers found, but in some ways teens were surprisingly traditional. Yes, there were slivers of teens -- 7 percent each -- that think it's perfectly fine to break with someone by proxy or by just changing your social media status to "single." (That's cold, kids.)
But seventy-eight percent said that the "most socially acceptable way" to break up with someone is by telling that person to their face, far outstripping other options such as over the phone, by text message, or by social media message -- though teens certainly reported breaking up (or having been broken up with) via all of those methods.
In short, the effect that technology has had on the teen social life is far from black and white. But, despite what you may think of our new swipe-left era of dating, tech hasn't killed all romance quite yet, either.