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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Column: E-Romance

In light of Valentine’s Day, I recently watched the appropriately hackneyed He’s Just Not That Into You. At one point, Drew Barrymore’s character complains about the struggles of modern dating:

“I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work so I called him at home and then he emailed me to my Blackberry and so I texted to his cell and then he emailed me to my home account and the whole thing just got out of control.”

For us millennials, her plight might not seem that daunting. We frequently juggle multiple forms of technology to communicate with each other (some discount us as easily distracted; I’d argue we’re just better at multitasking). Today, for example, I’ve emailed a professor, texted my boyfriend, instant messaged a co-worker, Facebooked two friends and asked my TA a question in a SmartSite chatroom. I even chose to reach a company’s customer service through their “live chat” option, as opposed to a phone call.

Things did not get “out of control,” but I did notice a trend — all of these forms of communication allowed for delayed responses.

Even in a fast-paced electronic dialogue, each person has a little extra time to think of what they’re going to say. I can write my response, reread it and decide to tweak something before I hit “send.”

Because of this, many conversationally challenged young people such as myself prefer to text, IM and email. In many ways, these new ways of connecting are a godsend. They’re convenient, often quick and discreet, and generally more conducive to multi-tasking.

But they are also changing how we connect with each other, especially romantically.

It is not unheard of nowadays for a relationship to start with some flirty texts, a friend request or a well-timed poke (forgive me). One might tweet about a recent date or write a hopeful post on Like-a-Little. Some may even sink to the depths of scanning Craigslist’s “missed connections.” The fact is, from meeting potential partners to blogging about your wedding, technology plays a bigger role in our romantic lives than ever before.

Before our generation hit the scene, dating had pretty straightforward rules, at least in the heterosexual sphere: boy gets girl’s phone number, boy calls girl, boy asks girl out, boy pays for dinner, boy drops girl off. Boy and girl eventually break up or boy and girl get married.

Now, things are a little more complicated. Gender roles are becoming progressively less defined, and heteronormativity is no longer implicit. Dating websites, for example, are making it easier (and more common) for women to make the first move. More casual forms of communication, like texting, are less risky and allow people to test the waters before jumping into dating.

And though I’m all for gender equality, the prevalence of electronic communication also has its drawbacks. It is near impossible to convey sarcasm, and emoticons are no substitute for the intricacies of tone and body language. Most texts and IMs are also written while doing other things, even while holding simultaneous conversations.

Controversial apps like “Bang With Friends” may make it easier for our so-called “hookup culture” to find one-night stands, but they also take away the risk of putting ourselves out there. Rejection is a part of growing up.

Technology can even interfere once a date has been planned. According to Match.com’s most recent “Singles in America” survey, 48 percent of women and 38 percent of men look up their dates on Facebook before they meet in person. What’s more, 49 percent of women and 27 percent of men would cancel a first date because of something they dug up while stalking — I mean, researching — that person online.

And don’t even get me started on texting during the date itself.

Though the dating scene of Generation Y comes with the benefit of indistinct gender roles, it has also been changed significantly by new technology. Electronic communication can make it easier for people to connect, but it can also be abused.

So next time you meet a potential partner, try to resist the ease of excessive Facebook stalking and texting. Letting the relationship develop more organically may come as a pleasant surprise.

MARISA MASSARA can be reached 24/7 via text, Facebook or instant message, but she prefers you email her at mvmassara@ucdavis.edu.

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