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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 22: The Impact of Digital Media on Romance and Marriage (Derek R. Blackwell)


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The Impact of Digital Media on Romance and Marriage

Derek R. Blackwell

The introduction of digital media into the romantic realm has been a true game changer. This idea is readily evident to anyone who has ever browsed an online dating site or even just watched an eHarmony ad on television; however, there is a common misconception that the role of new technologies in contemporary romantic relationships is limited to online dating. In fact, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found, “Fully 72% of married or committed online adults said the internet has ‘no real impact at all’ on their partnership” (Lenhart, Duggan, & Smith, 2014, p. 2). While online dating’s significance is undeniable, the impact of digital media on romance and marriage is actually much broader. In this essay, I will attempt to provide a bird’s-eye view of romance in the digital age. By looking at digital media in relatively broad terms and exploring every stage of romantic relationships—from how they begin (initiation), to how they’re maintained (maintenance), to how they end (dissolution)—I hope to show that, in today’s world, having a relationship in which new media have “no real impact at all” is virtually impossible.

Relationship Initiation

One conventional way of getting to know a romantic couple is to ask them how they first met. Couples often take joy in turning back the clock to that special moment of...

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