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Touchscreen Romance: How Modern Couples Get Connected

A new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project explores how digital technology and social media shape modern American couples.
Image: Mr. Thomas/Flickr

I was in a long-distance relationship once where Skype sex was a nightly event. Sometimes it meant going out to the car while I was at a friend's house, driving around the neighborhood searching for some unsecured Wi-Fi (also called wardriving), plugging in my headphones, and then thanking god for the desolate expanse of Seattle's Eastside suburbs. All that's to say, digital communication is crucial in 21st century romances.

But how pervasive has the web become in our relationships? A new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project explores how digital technology and social media shape modern American couples. So with Valentine's Day coming up this Friday (and a fair amount of breakups scheduled in girls' and guys' iCals for Thursday), I felt it'd be fun to peruse the survey's findings.


"72 percent of married or committed online adults said the Internet has 'no real impact at all' on their partnership."

Normal people don't spend more time looking at Reddit than their partner? Only 10 percent of online couples reported the Internet had a “major impact,” while 17 percent of respondents gave the Goldilocks response of it having a “minor impact” on their relationships. Bravo, I suppose, to those who didn’t need Google Maps to get to that first date.

"25 percent of married or partnered adults who text have texted their partner when they were both home together."

Are these innocent reminders? Shopping lists, perhaps? Were they whispering things to each other in the presence of a third party? They’re probably just texting each other selfies from across the couch.

"4 percent of internet users in a committed relationship have gotten upset at something that they found out their spouse or partner was doing online."

Is this a lie? Seriously? When my neighbor downstairs passed away a few weeks ago, his grandson and I rummaged through his stuff to unearth a trove of porno mags and DVDs. We quickly hid them so that his surviving widow wouldn’t have to clean them up herself. But it seems doubtful she didn’t have any clue. I just can’t imagine that when I end up kicking the bucket, and the same type of kids go searching through my hard drive, that there wouldn’t be something on there that hadn’t pissed off a woman I’d married or dated.


"9 percent have resolved an argument with their partner online or by text message that they were having difficulty resolving in person."

And the other 91 resolved it the old fashioned way? Ok, I buy that.

"67 percent of internet users in a marriage or committed relationship have shared the password to one or more of their online accounts with their spouse or partner."

For a moment I read this to mean couples have matching passwords, or passwords that make a sentence when they’re read sequentially (yuck). But then I just realized it meant partners that know each other's password. The colleague who sits closest to me, whose passwords I simply know from watching him type, confirmed this is how things work in his relationship.

"41 percent of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations."

You know this thing?

There's nothing more beautiful, when we're apart, than the anticipation of a lover's next words.

"27 percent of internet users in a marriage or committed relationship have an email account that they share with their partner. Older adults and those who have been in their relationship for longer than ten years are especially likely to share an email account."

I know one couple that does this: They share Twitter, Facebook, and email, but one of them seems to do all the talking. So much for two-step verification.

"9 percent of adult cell owners have sent a sext of themselves to someone else, up from 6 percent of cell owners who said this in 2012."


I live, along with Anthony Weiner, in the margins of society. The Time of India reads this sexting section to draw the conclusion that Americans are sexting more than any other nation. I'm so proud.

"20 percent of cell owners have received a sext of someone else they know on their phone, up from 15 percent who said this in 2012."

While few people sext, they sure do like to send dick pics to a lot of people.

"3 percent of cell owners have forwarded a sext to someone else – unchanged since 2012."

Does it count when one of your friends snaps a picture of his balls (to prank you), and you then forward it to his younger brother?