The characters in Pride and Prejudice have conflicts due to communication issues. Could the same communication issues harm relationships today, with digital messaging and social media connecting us?
Junior Ava Loria said she believes the answer is complicated. She said technology can benefit, as well as harm, relationships.
“I think there are two sides to (technology),” Loria said. “I think it is beneficial because we can talk to each other more (and) maybe talk about topics that are harder to talk about in-person. But also, I think that when people start to rely on texting, that technology to communicate with their partner about serious things, I think that’s the issue.”
According to counselor Stephanie Payne, technology has negatives, but the easily accessible communication can also minimize arguments in relationships.
She said, “I think (technology) definitely makes it easier to communicate quicker with each other. You can think of something, you can have a quick exchange of a couple text messages and you’ve got maybe a problem solved. I think it does allow you quicker access to each other to talk about whatever you’re going to talk about.”
Sophomore Simon Weddle said technology has especially benefitted relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Past generations did not have the amount of freedom we have right now. If something like COVID(-19) happened back then and they had to quarantine, it would be really hard to contact their significant other and talk to them. In quarantine right now, I can just shoot (my girlfriend) a text,” Weddle said.
According to a 2019 study by Pew Research Center, 48% of 18 to 29-year-old social media users said social media should demonstrate how much they care about their partner. Loria said she agreed, stating her and her boyfriend’s social media should show their relationship, but she said that can also add more pressure.
“It’s also just standard, I don’t know how to explain it, that we’re dating, so my partner should post me and stuff. And then if they don’t, it’s a problem,” Loria said. “I don’t think social media is really great when it comes to a relationship. People are always like, ‘Oh, why do you follow this person?’ or ‘Why don’t you post about me?’ It just starts random fights.”
Despite these concerns, both Loria and Weddle said students still need social media. Weddle said social media connects people with their partners, but also helps promote diversity in relationships and keeps students up to date.
“(Social media) is pretty essential because then you get to see what’s going on in the world and get a bigger perspective,” Weddle said. “(In the past, people) only had what the newspaper was saying to them, or what their friends were saying to them about what was going on in the world. Some of it was not entirely up to date; some of it was not entirely true. But now you can see many different perspectives on a single issue. It’s pretty essential to have social media.”
But Payne said she disagrees somewhat, stating social media cannot replace face-to-face communication or real friendships and relationships.
“I know plenty of people that aren’t on Facebook or don’t do any social media. I think they’re probably less connected with a broader group of people,” she said. “But at the same time, I know a lot of people I’m friends with on Facebook are people I used to go to high school with, who I hardly ever talk to. So it’s like, do I really need to be connected to them?”
Loria said comparisons between technology now and the past reveal differences in communication between generations. She said her mom’s experiences dating in high school contrast with her experiences.
“The only way she could talk to him outside of school was through the phone, but it was the phone connected to the wall, and that’s the only time they’d be able to talk,” Loria said. “And now it’s crazy, we can call each other whenever we want to or text whenever we want. But they had to plan and set up a time to call each other in-person, and then talk over the phone later that night. It’s just crazy how much easier it is to talk to people, to talk to your significant other now.”
Weddle said he agrees, stating people now have the option of long-distance relationships, something past technology would not have allowed. Although not long-distance, he said his relationship with his girlfriend has benefited from digital communication, and relatively new technology lets him communicate with his friends and family in China.
“It’s a lot easier because (of) messaging apps (that) people didn’t really have that back then. It would be extremely hard to call someone in China from America, just 30 years ago. It would be a lot harder, and people couldn’t really do it for that long either,” Weddle said. “Phones were not as easily accessible as they are now. Almost everyone has a phone, of any sort, and they can contact anyone else.”
Payne said she agrees; however, she said she also believes modern technology can add new stress to people’s lives. She added students should put limits on the amount of time they spend on their phones, so they don’t feel pressure to always respond to others.
She said, “Now, we’ve got these devices in our hands 24/7, so it’s definitely made (communication) easier, quicker, more accessible. But I don’t know if that’s always good. Then you’re kind of always expected to be accessible. So you kind of have to put some limits on that.”
Weddle said technology has not only made dating simpler because of the quicker communication, but technology has also made meeting people simpler.
“It’s allowed people to find relationships a lot easier. So you look at apps like Tinder, or just other dating apps in general, it just allows people to find relationships easier,” he said. “People can contact each other easier, instead of waiting a while to talk to other people. You can just talk to them at home, instead of having to go outside.”
Loria said while technology makes meeting people easier, it also makes genuine connections harder. She said talking through text or Snapchat before actually dating has become a popular trend, but building a relationship without meeting in-person often doesn’t work out.
“You don’t actually know the person when you’re texting them. You can have all these serious talks over text, but you don’t actually know their personality or who they are,” she said. “I feel like the problem is a lot of teens. Actually one of my friends, they were talking to this person for a long time and then they started dating. And then when they actually were with each other in-person, after a while, they were like, ‘No, this isn’t going to work out.’”
Payne said, “You guys know more kids from other schools, just through connections, friends of friends of friends… It just seems that relationships start differently, through texting or Snapchatting or something like that, whereas in the past it was more like (a) ‘Let’s go out on a date’ kind of thing to start getting to know each other.”
Loria said she hopes more traditional dates will become popular again, because dates today usually take place at someone’s house and don’t feel as fun as dates in the past.
“I feel like back then, when my mom was dating in high school, they’d go out and do things. They’d go ice skating or go eat dinner, but I feel like that’s not as common anymore,” she said. “I kind of wish it was, because now it’s just like, ‘Oh, come to my house, we can watch a movie or something.’ But I feel like we should go out more and eat food, or go ice skating or hiking. But I feel like that’s not as common anymore.”
Payne said she agrees; she said face-to-face communication remains essential in order to build a healthy relationship that will last.
She said, “The old-fashioned ‘go out on a date with somebody,’ it’s a good thing. You could have one impression of somebody from texting or social media, but you can’t substitute that personal interaction with someone.”