How is technology enabling the future of human relationships?

It’s no secret that the rise of new and innovative technology has enabled new ways for relationships to flourish. From co-living situations changing how we engage with a community, to co-working spaces facilitating new and exciting work relationships, technology has managed to be at the centre of a new wave of community-based living. But has this had the same impact in romantic relationships?

Long distance couple

A new age for long distance couples

Long-distance relationships and their challenges and rewards have long been articulated, but with many new ways to communicate so readily available, it’s not the challenge it was once perceived to be anymore.

Picture this: your loved one is in another city, state or country and you do your best to see them regularly, but what else can you do in the time that you’re apart?   You could stream a favourite TV show through Netflix or Hulu at the same time and FaceTime to discuss that plot-twist at the end after. You could deliver a care package overnight when they’re sick with the flu, or cook the same meal over Skype so you can sit down for dinner together (even if it means eating pasta at 7am), the list goes on. 

It could almost be the case that the sheer amount of technology available at our fingertips to maintain a connection could even put long distance couples at an advantage.

Natalie Bazarova, a communications researcher at Cornell recently told Wired, “It appears that long-distance partners can engage in more partner idealization and enhanced levels of self-disclosure, which can result in even greater levels of intimacy and satisfaction than geographically close partners.” 

So, perhaps the conversation about whether you should take the leap and make the distance work doesn’t have to be a touchy subject to dance around anymore. Sure, there’s many experiences that technology can’t wholly replace, but it’s certainly not the landscape it once was.

Online dating

Is online dating bringing the face-to-face connection we need?

What was once something that a couple might have kept secret from their social circles, online dating is now a completely socially acceptable way to meet someone (even a potential life partner). 

There are many arguments as to why online dating has exploded into the mainstream, but it is in-part facilitated by a greater access to technology that establishes more opportunities to meet. Be that based on geographical location like Tinder, or mutual interests and hobbies, like eHarmony. And this can even go beyond romantic relationships, apps like Bumble exist for people looking to make friends with similar interests and ambitions in a new city. 

It’s no wonder why this may be occuring. Technology may be bringing us closer in the accessible communication sense, but we’re also feeling more isolated than ever. And seeking friendship, or romance, through an accessible and easy platform may well be the new way to establish face-to-face human connection.

For many of today’s global citizens, it’s about understanding the balance in making use of technology to engage in new connections, but also knowing when to switch off and tune into reality.

Online couple

How far is too far? Emerging forms of digitally-savvy romantic love

It’s possible that this sense of isolation that many people feel (particularly in our modern cities), could lead to a new wave of technology that can simulate relationships. It may sound like science fiction, but a number of digitally-savvy means of connection are being built using virtual reality (VR) or ‘robots’.

Take the video game LovePlus as an example, it’s stealing the hearts of many people in Japan by simulating the experience of being in a relationship. The game features three different ‘girlfriends’, Rinko, Nene, and Manaka, each with their own personality, and the aim as the player is to court one of them, receiving ‘boyfriend’ points every time the player does something right.

There’s a number of arguments as to why something like this might not be widely adopted, but this specific example speaks to an interesting point made by Kriti Sharma, AI ethicist and VP of AI at Sage in the Where the World’s Moving podcast series. Kriti argues that the people creating these new technologies are often building subtle bias into these products because a lack of diversity in those teams is so commonplace.

Digital relationships

“It’s very important to think about, when you’re designing or building AI systems, including many of those that are in our everyday lives, it’s very important we teach them the right ethical values and principles to perform and survive in human society,” Kriti explained.

While technology that enables connection might be a great way to move forward in our increasingly global societies, the same technology needs to be reflective of that world, and all of its diversities to flourish.

It’s true that there’s so many parts of the human experience that could never be replaced by a digital, or robotic, experience. But with the amount of technological innovations in this field, it’s hard to ignore it’s impact or influence either. Realistically, for many of today’s global citizens, it’s about understanding the balance in using both. Making use of technology and social platforms to engage with connections that might not have been readily available before, but also knowing when to switch off and tune into reality.    

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