How to find love with social media

With smartphones and tablets providing easy access to social media, it has never been easier for us to flirt – for better or worse, a study carried out by Telenor Research reveals.

(Fornebu, February 19th 2015) With smartphones and tablets providing easy access to social media, it has never been easier for us to flirt – for better or worse, a study carried out by Telenor Research reveals.

“Our thresholds for contacting someone we want to get to know has become very low,” reports Wenche Nag, Senior Researcher at Telenor Research. According to her findings, the way we behave towards one another has been affected by the fact that “everyone” uses social media.

“At the same time, it seems as though the threshold for being in a relationship – and trusting that a partner feels the same way – has got higher,” she explains.

Jealousy triggers
For a number of years, Nag has researched how smartphones have changed communication practices. In a recent study, she conducted in-depth interviews with Norwegians between the ages of 18 and 27 to find out how they use digital communication, especially in their love lives.

“They upload images, hit “like” on Facebook and Instagram, and add new friends. But they don’t write much on these apps,” says Nag.

The study reveals that young people are particularly careful about how they approach someone they are interested in.

“For instance, they don’t write publicly to anyone they are checking out or chatting up. For that, they use private channels such as Messenger, Snapchat and, after a while, maybe even text messages,” says Nag.

For those already in a relationship, social media can give rise to other challenges.

“Our social lives have become very visible. We can monitor one another’s likes, comments, new Facebook friends and new Instagram followers. This gives us insights we didn’t have previously. At times, it can also trigger insecurity and jealousy. Everyone knows the grass is greener on both sides of the fence, and the fact that it’s perhaps only a keystroke away on a smartphone makes this fence a low one to jump over,” explains Nag.

Difficult decisions
Nag has observed one particular key difference in dating before and after the arrival of social media.

“It’s clearly the lower thresholds for indicating interest and making contact. I believe this makes it more difficult for single people to choose, and more difficult for those in relationships to feel secure,” she says.

“Dating today is a balancing act between freedom and feeling secure. Right now, I believe we are closer to freedom than security. At the same time, participants in the study also discussed how using these communication channels has at times confirmed and strengthened a relationship. This bodes well for love.”

Ten steps to finding a partner
How does contact between two people who like one another progress from that first meeting to moving in together, or even marriage? Nag illustrates a typical journey through the digital dating scene, step by step.

Step 1: You meet at a party, school, work, or on Tinder.

Step 2: “Background check” on Facebook and Instagram.

Step 3: Add the person as a Facebook friend and follow him or her on Instagram.

Step 4: Like a picture, but not many, or old ones – this will make you seem like a stalker! Wait to see if you get any likes in return.

Step 5: You don’t get any likes back. Advice: Give up, or hold off for a while.

You get one or more likes back. Advice: Follow up and say “hi” on Facebook chat (not on their timeline, where everyone can see it), or send a Snap of you having fun with your friends. Keep an eye on how often you send things, and how many smileys you use. Adapt to the other person’s pace of communication.

Step 6: Arrange to meet!

Step 7: Ask for their phone number and add text messages and phone calls to your mix of contact methods.

Step 8: Upload pictures of you together to Instagram or Facebook – for guys in particular, this is a home run!

Step 9: Now it’s really beginning to get serious. Upload “wefies” (“double selfies” of you both) to Facebook. Being “Facebook official” isn’t so important to everyone, but it can feel more important to couples who live in different towns, and serves as a “proof” that you are together. Remember to delete your Tinder account. You won’t be needing it if you are in a committed relationship.

Step 10: Suddenly you’re living together. The use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat tails off a bit, and couples use these less to communicate with one another, with text messages and calls increasingly used.

At this last stage, jealousy can come into play because of contact with others on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

“It’s easy to become jealous when you see your other half has “liked” a picture of an attractive colleague, or laughs about a Snap and you don’t know who it’s from. I feel that many couples – including those living together – will have to find a way of living with this insecurity,” says Nag, who has also compiled a summary of what to avoid:

Five no-nos

  • Don’t show you have been snooping around in old images, etc.
  • Don’t send selfies on Snapchat in the early stages of flirting.
  • Don’t flirt on their Facebook timeline – everyone can see it.
  • Don’t use lots of winking smileys in the early stages.
  • And for those who have just fallen in love: don’t carpet bomb each other’s Facebook pages with declarations of love. It’s not a given that all your other Facebook friends will find it equally cute when it’s constantly in their news feeds.

Tinder isn’t taking over
Are matchmaking apps like Tinder taking over?

“I don’t see any tendencies to suggest that Tinder will replace finding love in school, at parties, or at work. But it seems that finding a partner online has become more accepted, compared to how it was for older generations. Tinder is one dating arena, but it seems it can exist alongside others.

The facts

  • Wenche Nag is a senior researcher at Telenor Research and has interviewed young people on the subject of “young love and mediated communication”. 
  • The study is affiliated with the research initiative Digital Frontrunners, where over several years Telenor Research has looked at how communication practices have changed with mobile internet access. 
  • Nag has worked as a researcher at Telenor since 1996, and is a trained media specialist having studied at the University of Bergen. For several years, she has studied how people use different communication channels in their interpersonal relationships, both here in Norway, and in Asia.