lovelorn

One of the central themes of the brilliant British TV show “Black Mirror” is that technology ruins relationships. Some characters become so enamored with their social media identity that they no longer know how to behave in private. Others obsess over their significant others’ status updates, searching for evidence of infidelity. One real-world example supports this: In 80 percent of divorce cases, at least one person used Facebook to cheat. That naturally led to headlines like “What is Facebook Doing to Your Relationship Status?” and “Facebook Destroys Marriage.”

Do smartphones and social media really keep us forever alone?

According to a new study by Pew, technology’s not so bad for relationships after all. Only 10 percent of married or committed Internet users say the Internet’s had a “major impact” on their relationship. Only 17 percent said it had a minor impact, and a whopping 74 percent say it had “no real impact at all” or that the impact was positive.

That does leave 20 percent who say the Internet’s impact on relationships is “mostly negative.” But when you consider the wealth of articles that proclaim the relationship-killing power of technology, it makes you wonder if we’ve jumped the gun a bit.

So what explains the alarmism over technology and romance?

Maybe it’s just easier to blame the Internet for your relationship problems than to consider more depressing alternatives. Are a broken person incapable and undeserving of love? Are you destined to be unsatisfied no matter who you’re with? What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you just be happy?

Nobody’s perfect, and technology gives us more opportunities to indulge our worst tendencies than ever before. But if you use Facebook to cheat on your spouse, it’s not because you’re a technology addict. It’s because you want to cheat on your spouse, and you’ll use any tool at your disposal to do it, whether it’s Facebook, Tinder, or a “business trip.” Do you obsessively check your phone when out to dinner to see if that client emailed you back? That’s not technology’s fault. You are addicted to work.

The study also shows how technology can improve communication in committed relationships. 21 percent of committed cell phone and Internet users feel closer to their partner because of texts or online messages. Maybe that’s because the number of adults who have sent a sexy sext text is up to 9 percent, from 6 percent in 2012.

It’s not all good news for tech-savvy couples: Young adults between 18 and 29 reported far more tensions than the average user. Even still, only a little over 40 percent of cell owners 18-29 years old say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together. I’m tempted to believe the other 60 percent are lying, however, just like the 60 percent who say they never use social media on the toilet.

Relationships are hard, and technology is another way to justify or escape the problems that plague our romantic lives. But technology can also make relationships richer and more rewarding. Just remember next time you argue with your significant other about being on your smartphone too much: It’s not technology, it’s you.

[image by Carl Pfeufer via comicbookplus]