Love in the Age of iPhones

They were roughly 8,000 miles apart and had a time difference of 17 hours. Despite that, they stayed in constant contact whether that meant texting, calling, FaceTiming, or any combination of the three.

First-year business marketing major Paolo Silva and his girlfriend met in his hometown of Houston, Texas. They dated for a little less than a month before he had to leave for Sydney as part of the program. Without his iPhone, Silva said, he doesn’t think he would be in such a stable relationship.

“It’s pretty much the only reason why I’ve been able to be in a happy relationship, because I can talk to her at all times,” said Silva. “If I ever need anything, I can just call her and it’s as if we were talking right next to each other. It makes communication very instantaneous, and communication is vital to a relationship. Especially if it’s long distance.”

Since its unveiling, the iPhone has been the face of smartphone technology. In addition to call, text, and FaceTime, it has given millions of users worldwide on-the-go access to popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. In short, it has allowed for people over any distance to stay connected.

According to Brooke Foucault Welles, a communication studies professor at Northeastern University, there are five main factors of a romantic relationship. These factors are mutual trust, self-disclosure, involvement in one another’s life, shared experiences, and a sexual attraction.

The use of social media and iPhones has enhanced the dynamic of communication within a romantic relationship, according to Welles.

“Given those categories of things, social media enhances quite a few of them,” Welles said. “The most obvious of which is this constant communication, so we get to be updated in the direct sense. But we also get this ambient sense. If you and your partner are in a long distance relationship, you do get this ambient sense of what your partner is up to, by looking at their social media feeds.”

Additionally, Welles said she believes that because social media permits constant communication, it allows for a sharing of experiences even if both are not present physically to experience it.

“I do think that having your partner get near real-time updates begins to approximate a shared experience,” Welles said. “You can have meaningful conversations about the things that you’re seeing, in ways that you might not have been able to before social media and phones.”

But it’s not just long distance relationships that technology helps. Even those lucky enough to date someone in their vicinity benefit from the effects of social media and iPhone technology.

First-year civil engineering major Kevin Largey and first-year nursing major Madison Walsh have been dating for six months after initially meeting in Melbourne, Australia, where they spent their first semester as a part of the Program.

Walsh said that if they couldn’t communicate through their iPhones or through social media outlets, their relationship would be different than it is now. The convenience of communication is a huge plus for him and his girlfriend, mainly because it allows for a steady stream of interaction.

“I think relationships are much more intimate now, because we are able to have constant contact and communication, [more] than what my parents had when they were in college or high school,” Largey said.

iPhones coupled with social media are not the fix-it-all solution to relationship problems. Just as there are positive effects, there are also negative effects. The most common of these is that the smartphones can be a source of distraction.

According to the Pew Research Center, “25 percent of cellphone owners in a marriage or partnership have felt their spouse or partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together.”

When a relationship goes south, according to Welles, people are too quick to blame social media itself. If a relationship fails because of jealousy, for example, over something a partner saw on social media, jealousy is then the cause of the disruption, not the media itself. 20 years ago, the same jealousy could be generated from other sources.

“At the end of the day, human relationships are built off of an interpersonal psychology that hasn’t changed,” Welles said. “Technology doesn’t interfere with that.”